Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S03E16 – Sozin’s Comet, Parts III & IV

In the second half of the series finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang finally faces Fire Lord Ozai as Zuko decides to confront his sister Azula once and for all. OH GOD NEVER PREPARED. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Avatar.

PART III

I feel pretty confident in stating that there’s probably no single episode of this show executed quite as well as the third chapter of “Sozin’s Comet.” Now that I’ve seen the entire run, I know why so many of you couldn’t answer the question posed in last Friday’s review. The best scene of the whole series was right here.

Sozin’s Comet has plunged so close to the earth that everything seems to be awash in the colors of brutality and doom. The colors that the animators chose for these final two parts are unlike anything we had seen from the show before. (Though the use of color motifs for storytelling was not new in and of itself, as both season one and season two had their own general color schemes working throughout the story.) On top of that, by showing numerous locations in the Avatar world as being affected by the comet in terms of color, it gives the entire story a much more grand sensation: everyone is about to go to war.

It’s a tough task to have to deal with so many characters spread all over the world, but the writers master this with a great deal of respect for the many stories we witness. Aang awaits for the Fire Lord. Zuko and Katara head for the Royal Palace to take the throne from Azula. Toph, Sokka, and Suki try to intercept the air fleet to prevent the annihilation of the Earth Kingdom. The Order of the White Lotus prepare to defend the Earth Kingdom from the inevitable Fire Nation attack. If the first half was the set-up for the final battle against the Fire Nation, then chapter three provides the horrifying, awe-struck delivery.

Out of everything that happens though (and there is so much going on, and it is all beautiful, and absolutely nothing hurts), I was shocked to discover that my emotional attention was drifting towards the one character I’d never thought I’d feel anything for: Azula. Newly chosen to be the Fire Lord in the wake of her father’s imperialistic desire to be king of the entire world, we suddenly see, more clear than ever before, that she is a product of her environment, that her upbringing enabled her to become who she was here in the end of this grandiose tale. I don’t want to suggest that Azula should not be held accountable for the horrific things she did over the course of seasons two and three, nor do I want to put forth the idea that a person’s history always absolves someone of their crimes. This issue is much too complicated for that sort of simplification.

As we watch Azula’s paranoia grow and she begins to banish the people around her, it was obvious to me that she’d almost been…created this way? There are so many signs in chapter three that Azula is not only experiencing a crisis of morals, but that she’s realized her past has essentially come to devour her. I suppose one scene in particular stands out to me. When Azula hallucinates her own mother telling her that she loved her, regardless of how she turned out, I realized that she was the inversion of Zuko. She lived her life with all of the validation and positive attention that she could ever have asked for. (Even if she got those things by force.)Β  She worked for nothing. I used the word “enabled” up above because it was clear to me that her father did nothing but foster her quest for power and her penchant for violence. Whereas Zuko desired nothing but the validation of his father, it seems no one ever stepped in to tell Azula, “NO.”

I can’t even believe I’m saying this, given how hard it is for me to separate Azula’s portrayal from her resemblance to my own sister, but…I felt sorry for her. And I want to be honest about this because I really respect this show and the tremendous stories they have given us. I never thought I’d reach a day where I felt anything other than rage and intrigue. But as Azula continued to feed into her own paranoia, unraveling into a downward spiral of self-worth, I didn’t feel angry at her anymore. It was like I was viewing her through this very specific lens the entire run of her character, and all of a sudden, the writers pulled back to show us her entire life, and I stopped feeling so much hate for her.

I don’t know how that makes me feel about my sister, though I can’t deny that now I’m thinking about my relationship with her. The parallels, however, are undeniable: There was never anyone to stop my sister or deny her the things she wanted. And as she learned to use fear to manipulate the people around, it built up to a point where it actually became a disadvantage to her to have been brought up under these circumstances. But the pain she caused is too real and our history is too personal. It’s not as easy for me to think about her in the same way that I do Azula. In time, perhaps, but I can certainly say that this episode inspired thoughts in me that I have never had before.

But that’s what is truly great about this finale, and probably Avatar in general: a children’s animated television show that doesn’t shy away from fart and saliva jokes, has made me reconsider my relationship with my estranged sister. And this was on Nickelodeon. It’s not even the only thing I enjoyed or took away from this all. The simple fact is that the writers start to close up these character arcs in ways that are respectful to the past, but also manage to surprise and shock even this late in the game. I do have an emotional attachment to the stories being told, but at the same time, I don’t want to ignore the spectacular writing, or the beautiful animation.

Oh, the animation. There are so many scenes in these final two chapters of Avatar that are astounding in their detail and composition. I adore that Azula’s throne room is drenched in blues. I love the imagery of Iroh utilizing Sozin’s Comet to send a blast of fire at the walls of Ba Sing Se. (Maybe it’s the symmetry nerd in me, but I also enjoy how that scene is organized in terms of where everyone is standing.) I was filled with trepidation and awe when Sokka and company came upon the Fire Nation airships, since I could sense just how overwhelming the situation was.

Seriously, from that moment on, this episode explodes into total chaos. Aang’s the first one to make a move, blasting the flagship’s engine, and successfully grabs Fire Lord Ozai’s attention. And really, there is no better way for this battle to start than for the screen to erupt as Ozai and Aang’s power collide.

The thing is…as we see Iroh and the rest of the Order of the White Lotus begin to make a positive headway in Ba Sing Se, the other two fights have also started and I get the absolute worst feeling in my stomach: all of these fights cannot go well. We are witnessing the conclusion of the three main story lines Avatar has given us, with at least two of them rooted in the very beginning of the show. It seemed pretty clear that we were definitely going to see the inversion of Iroh’s original dream as he liberated Ba Sing Se instead of conquering it. But the writers chose to focus the bulk of the emotional weight on Zuko’s confrontation with Azula and Aang’s fight with Fire Lord Ozai.

I think I can accurately guess the exact scene that so many of you said you could not name when I asked what your favorite was of the entire series. Playing out simultaneously, Azula challenges Zuko to an Agni Kai, and Aang begins to discover that the Fire Lord might be a stronger match than he anticipated. In perhaps the most awe-inspiring and frightening scene in the entire show, the dialogue and sound drops out of this show, and the music swells to overtake everything, and our screen is filled with bursts of orange and bright blue fire from Zuko and Azula, both of them giving the fight of their lives, using bending techniques we had never seen before. Aang struggles with all four elements as the Fire Lord pursues him aggressively, and he discovers he can’t seem to land a single hit on the Fire Lord. Toph, Sokka, and Suki discover their own problems, too, as they’re unable to knock down the flagship in time. Sokka–brilliant, wonderful Sokka–risks his own life and those of his friends as he turns the airship he’s stolen against the very fleet that is now shooting columns of napalm-like fire at the earth below, trying to eradicate all life, and the ship plows violently into nearly all ofthe other flying bringers of death.

It is perfect.

And it is scary. Because it suddenly seems very obvious that for at least someone, this is going to end in disaster. Sokka, Suki, and Toph are forced to abandon their ship as it splits apart, and Suki is left behind, falling with the debris of a broken airship. Ozai sends a bolt of lightning towards Aang and watches in shock as Aang is able to momentarily absorb it. However, Aang is unable to commit to killing the man before him and sends the bolt into the sky, and Ozai resumes pummeling Aang, causing him to fall into a shallow lake below, nearly dying. The fight between Azula and Zuko reaches a frantic pitch and Zuko teases her when she makes a small slip-up, her resolve clearly crumbling. As she prepares a shot of lightning for Zuko, she spots an unprepared Katara behind her brother, and the action is clear. In a moment of pure sacrifice, Zuko dives heroically in front of Katara and takes the blue lightning himself.

Aang earth bends a shield of rock around him as the Fire Lord relishes the opportunity to hammer fire at the Avatar, using the comet’s power to shower him with heat. It seemed to me that we had reached the moment of truth at the end of chapter three: Someone was not going to make it.

That’s what makes chapter three, “Into The Inferno,” my absolute favorite out of the entire series. It’s gorgeously animated. The music has never been more intrinsic to the narrative. The stories have never had such a high risk. It is remarkably satisfying to see these characters interact in ways we’ve all been waiting for.

And for the first time in the whole series, I genuinely believed that any one of these characters were completely expendable.

PART IV

We had seen Team Avatar fail. A lot, actually. And all things must come to an end. With just twenty-three minutes remaining in the entire show, the opening of the fourth chapter of the finale did not make me feel better. The fire has nearly broken through Aang’s rock and he sweats. There is not much time left. Meanwhile, Toph has metal bended the rudder of the ship she and Sokka are on, but it causes them to draw the attention of a group of fire benders and Toph falls and breaks his leg in the process. To my horror, Toph nearly slides off the ship and Sokka grabs her. And I thought this was it. I thought we were about to see the one death in the finale that would make any possible victory bittersweet, and it seemed all but confirmed when Sokka lost both his boomerang and his space sword and there was still one more soldier left. And nothing to help them.

AH EPISODE WHY DO YOU CUT AWAY DURING A MOMENT LIKE THIS? Oh, so we can watch Ozai nearly destroy Aang, causing Aang to hit a jagged rock right on the location of the scar that Azula gave him. No lie, I just got chills thinking about it again. As freaked out as I was by the imminent loss of Toph, when Aang’s hand reached out of the rubble and it was clear he was in the Avatar state, I yelped in joy. Just….oh my god, when Aang is able to summon all four elements to create that thing??? That sphere of air with rings of water, fire, and earth? JESUS CHRIST THAT WAS THE MOST AWESOME THING I COULD HAVE EVER HOPED FOR.

Here’s the thing: If any of the main characters in Avatar had died in the finale, I still would have enjoyed this show. It would have been a bold, sad move, and I would have respected it. I think, personally, that is a greater feat that the tables turn at this point in “Avatar Aang” in a way that doesn’t feel cheesy, forced, or mischaracterized. I think it was much more difficult to find a way to get Aang out of his predicament, for Toph to be saved, and for Katara to face Azula in the way that she did.

Actually, can we just talk about Azula and Katara? I found Katara’s emotional defense of Zuko to be a touching sign of how much she had grown to care about him, even more so than her desire to get revenge for what Azula had done to her and her friends. Not only had she forgiven him, but she felt compelled to come to his aid. And OH LORD, does she ever come to his aid. Even though her water bending attacks are not quick enough for Azula, whose anger continues to build every second, she has one advantage: being clever. Katara has always been a creative water bender. Azula has always been powerful. Sometimes power does not mean you always win, though, and in a moment of pure, imaginative desperation, Katara tricks Azula into walking over a set of grates with water underneath them, freezing both herself and Azula inside.

I previously considered “The Puppetmaster” to have the creepiest moment in the series, but I have to change my mind. I will forever be terrified by the image of a broken, powerless Azula, wailing as her now-healed brother and Katara look upon her. Thinking back on this entire series, she has the most depressing and tragic character arc, but I appreciate that the writers did not make her defeat a simple act of victory. As awful as Azula has been…I just feel sorry for her.

Of course, the real big moment that we’ve all been waiting for since “The Boy In The Iceberg” has been the confrontation between Aang and Fire Lord Ozai. It became clear that Aang had the advantage and I sort of didn’t expect anything short of victory. But I was more interested in how he would do that. Now that he’d gained the ability to enter the Avatar state again, he had the advantage over the Fire Lord. As he shackled him to the earth with bending and used all four elements to deliver the final blow, I did believe for a second that Aang might have gone through with the action. However, I’m satisfied that not only did he refuse to kill Ozai, he had finally found the way to end the Fire Lord’s reign without murdering him.

There’s no sense trying to say that I knew it was coming. By that point, I’d forgotten entirely about the lion turtle doing that weird green energy thing. (I swear that I can describe things better than that usually, but what the hell do you call it? Lion turtle telepathy?) So I sat slack-jawed as Aang uses ENERGY BENDING.

ENERGY BENDING!!!!!!!!!!

Just….how gorgeous was that scene? Well, gorgeous and completely horrifying. It was a choice that Aang made that presented just as big of a risk as killing someone (COULD YOU IMAGINE IF THE AVATAR HAD LOST HIS BENDING ABILITY) and came with the responsibility as well. But it’s simply something that was only a small, tiny, minuscule thought in the back of my mind: Could someone lose the ability to bend? I guess this answers it by showing us how it can be COMPLETELY TAKEN AWAY.

oh my god i love this show forever

Aside from one moment Β of cheesiness (which I will excuse because it is HOLY SHIT), I absolutely adore the way that the writers chose to end this epic series in a way to give so many characters a final end that’s satisfying, but never ignores their past. From Ty Lee joining the Kyoshi Warriors (THE MOST PERFECT THING EVER HOW DID I NEVER THINK OF THAT), to Mai rejoining Zuko, to Hakoda’s blessing of his children…good lord. It is written SO WELL, even if these moments are brief and fleeting.

But really, LET US TALK ABOUT FIRE LORD ZUKO. Oh my god, isn’t that the best sentence I have ever typed? Ugh, I just want to sob tears of joy when I think about Aang and Zuko’s conversation about how much the world has changed, and how much they’ll change it together. It’s a way for the writers to avoid saying that the world is MAGICALLY FIXED now that Ozai has no powers. There’s still work to do. But it’s also in utter contrast to the first episode, where we learn just how much this world is torn apart.

can i say that i love this show again. can i.

I’m also glad that this episode ends with a large dose of humor and a kiss that was long-awaited. It seems like the greatest honor to be drawn by Sokka (even crudely so), but I enjoyed the scene because it was a last representation of unity. Isn’t that what this is all about anyway? Again, it’s the polar opposite of where Avatar started out. In that sense, despite that it is a cheesy thing to end the whole show on, it’s a beautiful way to show that even on a micro scale, these people have come together in an everlasting way.

I’m certain there’s been no show I’ve done for Mark Watches that I’ve fallen in love with so quickly, and I’m also glad that this is the first television show I’ve seen to its utter intended completion. (I don’t count Firefly, since it was tragically cancelled.) This is a story about hope, bravery, and the fight against oppressive, violent powers who aim to homogenize the world around them. I adore that it is youthful. I adore that it featured an entire animated cast of people of color. I adore that it dealt with such difficult things in a medium that people unfortunately write off as something that can’t be serious, on a network that probably had never addressed some of these themes before.

But I must praise what shines brighter than anything: the writing. From Sokka’s warm humor, to Katara’s hopeful speeches, to Toph’s no-nonsense attitude, to Aang’s moral crises, to giving animals who can’t speak a full characterization, to respecting character development and giving us a reason to care about the people on the screen, Avatar explicitly respects its audience. And I love that.

Of course, I want to end this review properly: There are few characters in all of fiction better written than Zuko. And I will always cherish this show for giving us a villain to hate, making us feel sympathy for his tragic past, and then handing us a redemption that never feels cheap or pandering.

I am very happy and honored to be able to call myself a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

THOUGHTS

  • Oh, you’re just not going to tell us where Zuko’s mother is? FFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU
  • How rad was that parallel during the battle with Ozai when Aang is standing on that pillar and it looks like Roku during the credits?
  • I only cried once during this second half of the finale: When Toph started cried when she realized she was about to die. Oh god, in hindsight, if we had lost Toph? I PROBABLY WOULD NOT HAVE HEALED
  • AANG. THOSE FIRE WHIPS. YOU ARE MY FAVORITE.
  • AIRBENDING SLICE!
  • Oh my god, the entire birthday sequence on the Fire Nation airship. I know it’s tonally jarring, but christ, it’s so perfect.
  • “Have I ever mentioned how sweet it is you invented metalbending?” “You could stand to mention it more.” RIGHT.
  • So, Mark Watches Avatar might be properly over at this point, but next week, I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con and will be posting updates about the Avatar fan panel (OMG I WANT TO MEET AVATAR_MOM) and the Legend of Korra presentation. Additionally, when Legend of Korra airs next summer, I’ll resume reviewing the show in real time, the way I am currently reviewingΒ Doctor Who and Fringe.

This has been a pleasure–and I mean that–and I am so happy to have been able to host the Avatar fandom for the last three months. (To the very date!) You all have been utter sweethearts and I thank you for how well you all have treated me.

Tomorrow, I’ll put up my review of A Very Potter Sequel. I’m taking Thursday off to prepare for my panel at LeakyCon, which is Friday, July 15th, at 12:00pm. You should check it out if you’ll be there! I’ll also put up my review for Deathly Hallows Part II on Friday, and then we shall move on to a new series on Monday! EXCITING!

Additionally, I’ve released Mark Reads New Moon, the second ebook in the Mark Reads Twilight series. You should buy it! Merchandise is coming very soon as well. Basically, life is rather exciting right now.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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490 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Avatar’: S03E16 – Sozin’s Comet, Parts III & IV

  1. lilah80 says:

    "Dear Diary,
    The war is over, and Father will never hurt me or Mother or anyone, ever again. Guru Pathik says that Azula has stopped trying to burn him with her eyes and that her aura is much less terrifying after her yogic training. Maybe it's the onion and banana juice that's softening her up. The Fire Nation's honor is being restored, and world is rebuilding its ties with Aang's help. My soulmate Mai is by my side — well, most of the time; she says Fire Council meetings are too boring to bear. Oh, speaking of bear, the Earth King and Bosco have been located, but he says he's continuing his travels rather than returning to the throne. I'm on a diplomatic mission to Ba Sing Se, visiting Uncle with all my friends. Because I'm the Fire Lord now. But I'm also still the best tea boy in the Earth Kingdom." – Zuko

    • lilah80 says:

      I collected all these diary entries and wrote up entries for the rest of Book Two, which you can see at http://lilah80.livejournal.com/ Hopefully I'll finish Book One soon.

      I never would have watched Avatar if Mark hadn't been reviewing the show, so a huge thank you to Mark! I really loved it. And thank you to everyone who's read these silly little diary entries.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      But I'm also still the best tea boy in the Earth Kingdom.

      Yes, you are, ZuZu! <3

    • ApocalypsePenguin says:

      <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
      I'm going to start a petition to have my school perform Forever Flaming Darkness.

    • eleniel says:

      Love this~ <3 Thank you for writing these, they are wonderful!

    • Pelleloguin says:

      Thank you so much for writing more, these are the best!

    • Tilja says:

      This is the BEST EVER possible way to begin the comments into the final review of ATLA.

      THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE, ZUKO DIARY ENTRIES!!!

  2. arctic_hare says:

    ARCTIC_HARE'S SEMI-ORGANIZED THOUGHTS ON PARTS III AND IV OF SOZIN'S COMET

    – Oh, Azula. :/ She starts off the episode increasingly paranoid about the possibility of someone trying to assassinate her, and of further betrayal, banishing all her servants, and the Imperial Fire Benders, the Dai Li, and finally Lo (or Li). It's not hard to see why she's so anxious about these things: she's clearly on edge after first Mai and Ty Lee betrayed her, and then her father tossed her aside and left her behind, refusing to let her help with her own plan that she came up with. Contrast this with Hakoda's pride in Sokka for the invasion plan and the trust he placed in him, and that he didn't object once to letting him come along and fight on that day. Azula feels rejected and alone, mistrusted and used by her own father that she's revered all her life, and that combined with what Mai said has severely undermined her confidence in herself. She no longer feels she can trust anyone, nor does she trust that her tight grip on others will continue to hold. I think back to how she was when she first began to control the Dai Li, how easy she felt it was to win their loyalty through fear, how proud she was of herself. But now she's been shaken up so badly, and she doubts their continued loyalty precisely because of that: because of how easy it was for her to turn them against Long Feng, whom they were supposedly so loyal to. She has a point, and I wouldn't have trusted them very far either; but at the same time, the very fact that she's saying this is a good indicator of her state of mind here. She's lost all confidence in her ability to control, to manipulate; gone is the girl who declared herself a "people person". Her whole world has crumbled around her, and she's struggling to protect herself in the face of what she sees as a dangerous world where everyone's out to get her. Her closest friends betrayed her, her father used her and threw her away; what reason does she have to trust anyone else, to believe that they won't betray her too? As I said yesterday, she's been alone for a long, long time – probably her whole life – only she didn't realize it till now. It's kind of a dark version of a line from The Golden Compass, about how Lyra had to "adjust to her new sense of her own story". Azula is having to go through that sort of transition period herself, only it's so much worse, so much more unsettling and jarring for her. In a very short period of time, she's had to deal with so much betrayal and hurt. She's having to look at her whole life up to now and reevaluate everything she thought she knew about her world, herself, and the people around her. It's so much to take in and deal with, it's a lot of pain, and I'm not surprised she's having a hard time with it.

    – I have to admit that the throne room looks better with her blue flames than Ozai's red ones. It's actually kind of… beautiful.

    – Someone just push that fucker off the airship. Please.

    – "Happy birthday." Oh man. πŸ˜€ I kinda feel sorry for that guy, he was so excited. And I love the small talk between the two other soldiers.

    – I have no words for the sheer badassery that is the invasion of Ba Sing Se by the Order of the White Lotus. No words. *_* It's amazing to watch on two levels: the OMGFUCKYES of the visuals and these characters from multiple nations working together, and the fact that Ba Sing Se will now be free. Truly free, as the Dai Li and Long Feng will be gone too, not just the Fire Nation. That General Iroh, who led a six hundred day siege against the city, is now liberating it in the name of the Earth Kingdom, is incredible. I love the moment when Iroh burns the Fire Nation flag.

    • arctic_hare says:

      – The hallucination Azula has of Ursa breaks my heart. See, in The Beach, when she acts like it doesn't really bother her that her mother thought she was a monster, I always saw it as just that: an act. "Azula always lies", Zuko said… and it's clear that she's even had to lie to herself, to make herself believe that the rejection she felt from her mother didn't hurt. She closed herself off, choosing to believe that her mother didn't love her, and that she was okay with that. She had her father, after all, and he accepted her as she was, encouraged her. But now – now she's seeing that her image of her father wasn't the same thing as the reality of him. He's shown her that he never really valued her the way she thought he did. She's seeing that all along, he was just using her for his personal gain, controlling her through fear by showing her through Zuko's punishment what would happen if she stepped out of line. He gave her the title of Fire Lord before he left to enact her plan by himself, and while she showed delight at first, deep down inside she knows how little it means. He's trusting her only with a meaningless title, leaving her to sit at home and wait… which gives plenty of time for the fears and insecurities she's now harboring to run wild and exert control over her. Her fear is mastering her, rather than the other way around, to borrow some more phrasing from His Dark Materials.

      What do I think of Ursa's relationship with Azula when she was still around? I think it was more complicated than her simply favoring Zuko. I do think she loved her daughter, but that she had a hard time understanding her and was frustrated by their inability to connect, as well as deeply concerned over the influence Ozai was having on her personality. I don't think she hated her. But she did let her down, as I mentioned in my comments on the first part. Azula has, I believe, tried to deny this part of their relationship, to deny how she really feels about her mother's distance from her and how her disappearance affected her. It's easier to simplify it into her mother thinking she was a monster and not loving her, and dismiss it as being something that didn't matter to her. And it mostly worked – up till now. Because now, in the face of the rejection by her friends and father, all those old memories and feelings are being triggered, and she can't help but think about her other parent and the unfinished business there, the conflicted emotions. My heart breaks for her because she's so lonely; she wants so badly to be loved and accepted, but she's been brought up and shaped in such a way that she doesn't know how to express it, how to go about getting it in a way that doesn't involve manipulation and fear. The Beach is still funny to me on a surface level… but down below that is how it relates to what I'm seeing here, and it makes it so sad in retrospect. She really doesn't know how to connect to other people in healthy ways, and it's causing her to suffer so much. She's crying out for help, for all the things she's longing for and needs, but because of her inability to show it, to communicate with people, no one hears it and she grows ever more alone as she withdraws and refuses to trust. And because she's likely burned so many bridges due to past behavior, she's not entirely wrong, either, in not wanting to trust people.

      Whatever else she's done, she's still just a fourteen year old girl, and she needs her mother. She needs someone to give her the kind of love and support and guidance that Zuko got. But she has no one. It's so sad. I can't help it, I well up when I see the tears run down her face, and she hurls the brush into the mirror before falling to her knees crying.

      – And then we cut to Ozai, who did this to her, and I just want to punch that smug look off his face. Over and over.

      – The music during Zuko and Azula's Agni Kai kills me. It says everything about how awful this is, that it's come to this, sister and brother fighting presumably to the death, how severed and screwed up their relationship has become. And it didn't have to be this way. Bravo, Track Team, thanks for making me want to cry again.

      – WELL THAT'S A CHEERY WAY TO END THIS PART. Ozai's being Ozai, and Zuko just took some lightning to save Katara. Which, like the really sweet moment post-Agni Kai when she heals him and they thank each other, just adds more fuel to the flames that is my friend-'shipping them. Awww. But also D:!

      – "I don't think boomerang is coming back, Toph." ;_; R.I.P. boomerang and space sword! And oh man, this part was utterly terrifying and sad for me the first time through. It really feels like this could be the end for Toph and Sokka, and it's heartbreaking to watch Toph realize that too. BUT THEN SUKI TO THE RESCUE! πŸ˜€ Flawless.

      – NICE JOB FIXING IT, VILLAIN. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ FUCK YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH~

      • arctic_hare says:

        – I said this yesterday in reply to echinodermata, but Azula's final breakdown makes me cry for her. When I first saw her in action back in The Avatar State, I never thought that I would be saying this, or feeling this, but I do. She's lost everything now. She's lost so much in such a short space of time. Even worse, she's had to come to terms with the fact that she never had the things she took for granted. She has no friends, her father never cared about her the way she believed he did and wanted him to, and now the one thing she had left, that she was clinging to, the position of Fire Lord, has been taken from her also. She felt insecure about it, she knew there wasn't much meaning in the title, but it was nevertheless the only thing she had left. Now even that is gone, and she's been defeated. Her brother, who betrayed their family and their country in her eyes, who received more of their mother's love, didn't strike the final blow, but he's won nevertheless, and it all happened due to the interference of Katara, his Water Tribe friend. Faced with all of this, she crumbles – she can't handle it, can't take any more. She's reached her breaking point.

        I'm glad that it was portrayed onscreen as being as sad and tragic as I feel it is. Zuko and Katara don't look happy about this outcome; they know it's a bitter victory because of what's happened to Azula. I've heard that the creators said that Azula was admitted to a mental health facility afterwards. I hope that she'll receive the care she needs to recover, and I don't believe that she is beyond redemption. She's so young – she has so much time to heal and move past this and redeem herself. I want her to be able to do that. She's not a hopeless case; she's just a teenage girl who's been warped and manipulated and used all her life, by her own father. She has a heart, she has feelings; beneath the surface is a sad and lonely young girl who wants to connect with others but doesn't know how to. So she falls back on using fear and intimidation, and pushes people away, and the cycle continues. She just needs help and love and support to be able to break it on her own. I don't believe she's any less capable than Zuko of being able to one day stand up and reject all that her father pushed onto her, to work through the damage he inflicted on her. She's so strong, she can get through this. I like to think that Zuko found Ursa eventually, and brought her back, and that she and Azula were able to repair their relationship. Things can never be "normal" and happy go lucky for her, but that doesn't mean she can't grow past this into a better, healthier person with some happiness in her life. I want her to be able to reconcile with Zuko, and Mai, and Ty Lee, and Ursa. And I find that there's no reason for me to think that she can't, to think that that possibility is off the table.

        – Now, I said in my review of the first half of the finale that at that point in time, it was hard to see an alternative way of taking down Ozai without killing him. But that was before energy bending entered the picture. I don't see it as a deus ex machina, and quite frankly, even if it veered towards being that, that's still better than Aang having to kill the guy. Not only does it stay true to Aang's beliefs, but if I can be a bit sadistic here towards a fictional character, Ozai suffers more this way, because he has to live without his bending forever. Think about all we've seen on the show about how much bending is a part of who people are, an integral and important part of their personalities and lives. Now imagine how it must feel to be robbed of that part of yourself. Not just for a little while, as with an eclipse, but for the rest of your life. It's a credit to how well the writers have built up that aspect of the world of this show that I shudder with horror at the thought of something so vital to me being ripped away from me forever. For the third and final time (I swear!) I'll compare it to HDM, and the way that Pullman developed the concept of daemons in such a gradual and effective way that intercision was completely horrifying and the breaking of the taboo against touching another person's daemon was sickening and awful despite none of us having daemons in the real world. I feel that the Avatar writers did the same thing here with bending. So Ozai's punishment is A-OK with me and seems to me to be the most fitting and appropriate.

        – "Leave the nicknames to us, honey." Aw, poor Suki. πŸ˜€ I love Sokka and Toph trash-talking Ozai, especially when he's just lying there drooling on the ground. It is so cathartic to see him so pathetic and defeated and getting slammed verbally by Team Avatar. So much more so than it would have been to see him bite it.

        • arctic_hare says:

          – MAI~! <3 <3 <3 And they reconcile! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ I'm so happy to see her, and to see them make up. The happy smile on Zuko's face when he sees her is so sweet. I love them together. And you better do as she says, Zuko – don't ever hurt her like that again. Be good to her. She's awesome and deserves to be treated wonderfully. Especially after saving your ass at the Boiling Rock! Oh me oh my, I'm starting to fangirl again. I'd missed her.

          – Yay, everyone else is free too!

          – TY LEE! <3 <3 <3 And she's a Kyoshi Warrior now! I lol at the fact that after her talk in The Beach about not wanting to be part of a matched set, she's gone and joined them for real… but whatever, Ty Lee rocks and I'm really happy to see her happy and free and okay. It also doesn't surprise me that she would be able to make friends with them in prison, her personality is so sweet and I can't see her holding a grudge against anyone. She's just so lovable. <3 Okay, I'm totally biased, I admit it. DEAL WITH IT.

          – Awwww, Zuko and Aang are friends. That hug is so sweet. They really have come a long way since the first episode, haven't they?

          – "Banishing me was the best thing you could have done for my life. It put me on the right path." This is perhaps the best burn of all since Ozai's defeat, and I love it. This is a rather spectacular example of "nice job fixing it, villain", since it took such a long time for Ozai's choices to come back and bite him in the blubber. But oh, were the results so wonderful. Ozai spelled his own doom the minute he banished Zuko, because he allowed him to see the world and learn so much, and thus to eventually shake off the shackles of his father's influence and choose to do the right thing and help Aang. Ozai brought this on himself, and now he has to live with it. Again, isn't that so much better than having him die and not have to deal with this shit?

          – DAMMIT, I WANT TO KNOW WHERE URSA IS.

          – Awwww. I love the ending, with them all in the Jasmine Dragon in Ba Sing Se, just relaxing and hanging out together. It's so sweet and lovely and it makes me well up because I know it's the last time I'll see all of them together like this.

          – I like that it was Katara that initiated the kiss, even if the kiss itself kinda squicks me because they're still so young in my eyes. I don't have a problem with them ending up together, though, even if I wasn't overly interested in all the shippy angsty stuff along the way. But that's just me and my tastes.

          Well. It's been quite a journey, hasn't it? When Mark first announced that he was going to watch this show after he finished Doctor Who, I hadn't yet seen the show, though I'd been meaning to watch it for some time. I decided that I was going to watch along with him. It did and didn't work out well; I mean, I loved the show, a lot, but I was not able to watch along with him, because it's very addictive and I don't have a third of the willpower Mark does (seriously, I salute you, man). It's now become one of my favorite shows of all time, and I have so much love for so many characters. I was incredibly sad when I reached the end of my first watch of the series, and now I'm sad all over again because Mark Watches Avatar is now over too. I'll miss this, as I'll miss these characters. Don't ask me to pick one favorite character, or episode, it's too hard. I've had such a blast experiencing this series for the first time with all of you, and I'm so glad that Mark decided to cover this show, and that I decided to finally watch it too. It was worth every minute, and I'm proud to call myself an Avatar fan now, even though I got into it so much later than most people here. I just want to say thank you to Mark and to everyone else, for being so awesome. I've really enjoyed experiencing and discussing the show with you all. Thank you. I love this place, and Mark most of all for making it all possible. <3

          • echinodermata says:

            "I'm glad that it was portrayed onscreen as being as sad and tragic as I feel it is."

            I think that it's really important that they made Azula tragic – she was a victim of abuse, like Zuko was. We've seen some of her childhood, and for me, I honestly don't know what other fate Azula should have had except this. She wasn't going to win, but simply defeating her wouldn't be much of an acknowledgment of her characterization. This ending is, to me, the best way I can see to give Azula an emotional arc, and I'm really glad she got one, and one that seems like a logical fit.

            And re whether or not Ozai's fate is a deus ex machina, I agree that the question doesn't really matter to me much, because I think not killing Ozai is the better ending.

            Also, it was really fun seeing your reaction to this show too! I'm really glad you liked it.

          • Hyatt says:

            "Banishing me was the best thing you could have done for my life. It put me on the right path." This is perhaps the best burn of all since Ozai's defeat, and I love it.

            There's one thing that could top it; a recovered, reformed Azula rejecting him.

        • Hyatt says:

          Zuko and Katara don't look happy about this outcome; they know it's a bitter victory because of what's happened to Azula. I've heard that the creators said that Azula was admitted to a mental health facility afterwards. I hope that she'll receive the care she needs to recover, and I don't believe that she is beyond redemption. She's so young – she has so much time to heal and move past this and redeem herself. I want her to be able to do that. She's not a hopeless case; she's just a teenage girl who's been warped and manipulated and used all her life, by her own father. She has a heart, she has feelings; beneath the surface is a sad and lonely young girl who wants to connect with others but doesn't know how to.

          That's pretty much exactly what the creators have said about Azula and her future. If she comes up in the comics, I really hope they decide to go that route with her. Plus bringing back her mommy to lead the healing efforts, 'cause now Azula needs Ursa more than Zuko.

      • nanceoir says:

        R.I.P. boomerang and space sword!

        I like to think that after the… aftermath, Toph and Sokka went to the battle site and Toph used her earthbending powers to see where the sword and boomerang landed, reuniting the Sokka/Boomerang/Space Sword OT3 forever.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          That's my headcanon, too!

          Maybe next year's comic will cover that, too!

        • Ridia says:

          In my headcanon, Sokka and Toph go searching for space sword and boomerang and find them lying together in a clearing with Hawky perched beside them.

          • nanceoir says:

            Oh, nice!

            Maybe Hawky has a letter from Toph's mom and was just hangin' out with boomerang and space sword, since that's where Sokka will be, eventually. You know, new world order and all, it's gotta throw a kink into Hawky's nav system.

  3. An Excerpt from My LiveJournal Post ("The Weekend That Killed Fandom") on July 19, 2008

    This season has had its issues, and it failed to reach the heights of awesomeness achieved by season two, so I didn't expect the finale to be totally amazing and perfect, just good enough with a healthy dose of awesome. And that's what I got. I will love it, flaws and all, because that's how I roll.

    I loved the sand sculptures. I loved that Toph wanted her life-changing field trip with Zuko. I loved the return of June. I loved the return of the White Lotus Society. I loved that Bumi took back Omashu during the eclipse. I loved Aang's commiserating with past Avatars, as it at least made most of the things we learned in "Escape from the Spirit World" truly canon. I loved the tearful Zuko/Iroh reunion. I loved that Azula's mental breakdown basically stemmed from huge trust issues resulting from Mai and Ty Lee's betrayal and compounded by Ozai's turning his back on her. I loved that she was still scary when she was unstable. I loved Azula's unstable laugh. I loved that they actually let Sozin's Comet arrive, just like they let the Day of Black Sun fail, just like they let Ba Sing Se fall. I loved the music, as always. I loved Sokka and Suki as a couple. I loved Toph metalbending the shit out of everyone. I loved airship slice. I loved the use of the boomerang. I loved that I kind of want to make out with Suki now. I loved the sheer power of the mass firebending at its most destructive. I loved Zuko holding his own against Azula. I loved Katara waterbending the shit out of Azula. I loved Ozai ferociously attacking Aang. I loved Firebender Jetpack Day. I loved Bumi stacking tanks. I loved Avatar Aang's swirly elemental ball of power. I loved that in the end, it was AANG, not the Avatar, who brought the fight to a close. I loved Ty Lee joining the Kyoshi Warriors. I loved Fire Lord Zuko reuniting the world and bringing a new era of love and peace. I loved Zuko and Aang being friends. I loved Zuko asking his dad where his mother is. I loved everyone together in Sokka's picture. I loved the whole super awesome lovable show.

    There were things I didn't love, of course. Azula's breakdown was sad to watch. And she was less hot when she was unstable. The trauma-induced chakra unblocking was sort of whatevs, but, hey, I do love the Avatar state. The Deus Ex Lion-Turtle really bugged me because it came out of nowhere and imparted this great wisdom that even past Avatars didn't know (although latropita says that's the point, that it's something new), and it was never foreshadowed or hinted at ever (UM HOLY FUCKING SHIT I TAKE IT BACK: "Hey, look at these weird lion-turtle things," says Aang). And, as gymble's husband noted, it was animated like something out of Monty Python. Most importantly, however, we couldn't understand a fucking thing it said. The voice was digitized too heavily, and it was clearly supposed to be saying meaningful, important things, and here Aang was taking someone's bending away, something we didn't even know was possible, and we couldn't understand how or why because the voice was so fucked up. Epic fail on your series climax, guys! We've been waiting all this time for Aang to defeat the Fire Lord, and we don't even know what's going on. But there were a lot of bright lights and loud music, so it was cool anyway. The lion-turtle bullshit was my major complaint, I guess; I can't think of much else besides, what the hell, where is Zuko's mom?? I guess that's what the specials will be about? You don't put a scene like that in a finale and then plaster THE END on the screen! Also, I'm not a 'shipper, so ending the series on an Aang/Katara kiss was sort of eye-rolly for me. I mean, yes, I assumed they'd be together, but I was hoping for something else in a series-ending shot.

    Shit, I don't want it to be over.

    • MocataJoy says:

      YES!!!! ALL OF THIS!!!!!

      I was almost afraid to post that I couldn't understand the lion-turtle for the LONGEST TIME because I thought people would think I was completely stupid. But I seriously had no idea what it was saying….all I heard was echo echo echo….and that lion-turtle was saying some REALLY IMPORTANT SHIT. Like….shit that I NEEDED TO HEAR.

      • I watch everything (the first time through, at least) with closed captioning. I hate missing dialogue!

        • notemily says:

          ME TOO, except now that I don't have cable anymore I'm watching everything on Netflix, and they don't have closed captioning for a lot of shows. It's frustrating. If the DVDs are closed-captioned why can't the instant streaming be too?

          • MocataJoy says:

            YES. I watch almost everything with the captions on, so Netflix pisses me off. Honestly, I had to go to the interwebs and frantically google "what does that fucking lion turtle say in the series finale!!??" (or something like that) to finally understand him.

      • Doodle says:

        Yeah it took me watching like five times before I understood everything. Don't feel bad. πŸ™‚

    • midgi says:

      Yeah, the lion-turtle was hard to understand, but I personally thought the animation on it was kinda beautiful. It was reminiscent of Chinese painting, and considering how much research and detail has always been put into the show, I feel like that was probably the point.

      But seriously, if the lion-turtle is your only complaint, I think the series deserves a little better than "just good enough" don't you? πŸ˜‰ I have to wonder if any show finale has ever lived up to your expectations?

      I myself consider it one of the best series finales I've ever seen in my life. There is more than one scene in here that never fails to move me to tears, and the agni kai with just the music and the orange and blue fire is nothing short of stunningly beautiful.

    • Strabo says:

      "I mean, yes, I assumed they'd be together, but I was hoping for something else in a series-ending shot."

      I'm not a shipper either, but I liked it. It's a nice symmetry to when they found Aang. And, really, they've had to have enough patience.
      Wouldn't have said no to ending it with a group shot, but we got that one just before.

    • Tess says:

      "And she was less hot when she was unstable."

      Ugh. You're kind of grossing me out. Azula's purpose as a character is not to provide fodder for the male gaze. It's very strange to judge her character arc based on whether it turns you on.

  4. hallowsnothorcruxes says:

    Mark you asked us what's our favourite moment from the series was. For me (and for many others) it is impossible to choose one single moment. So these are just a few of the scenes that have remained with me through the course of the series.

    Agni Kai
    The incredible music, the choreography, Zuko's swivel attack and Iroh being a complete badass in the end.
    <img src="http://i85.photobucket.com/albums/k59/katara1077/AVATAR/avatar%20fights/zuko_vs_zhao_part4.gif "/>

    The Storm
    The episode that elevated the show from good to great.

    The Blue Spirit
    Specifically the escape sequence. Aang and Zuko working seamlessly together and the brilliant music.
    <img src="http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_llq1gszxpj1qfthago1_400.gif "/>

    Bumi
    <img src="http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ln1ulyvDGx1qdmlfso1_500.gif "/>

    Katara vs Pakku
    So incredibly proud of Katara for standing up for herself and putting up a great fight against a master waterbender.
    <img src="http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l7zfhia7jZ1qceiz6o1_500.gif "/>

    Koh
    Creepiest creature ever. (Oh wait there's still No Face)
    <img src="http://images.wikia.com/avatar/images/f/fd/Aang_Koh.png "/>

    The Moon's Death
    Zhao does the unthinkable and the world plunges into chaos. But it's not over.
    <img src="http://i56.tinypic.com/2ai0ow7.gif "/>

    The Blind Bandit
    When we first see Toph fighting.
    <img src="http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lh9hl8xMpN1qggr45o1_500.gif "/>

    Zuko Alone
    Specicifically when Lee rejected Zuko's dagger.
    <img src="http://images.wikia.com/avatar/images/1/16/Zuko_Alone.png "/>

    Sokka-Momo-Cactus juice
    No explanation necessary.
    <img src="http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lfecudYGfy1qd21lso1_r1_500.gif"/&gt;

    The Desert
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/NvjEq.gif "/>

    City of Walls and Secrets
    There's no war in Ba Sing Se. There is no war within the walls. Here we are safe. Here we are free.
    <img src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h118/the_flowergirl/there_is_no_war_loop.gif "/>

    Zuko vs Jet
    One of the coolest fights in the entire series.
    <img src="http://i56.tinypic.com/2ztc6zr.gif "/>

    The Tale of Iroh
    <img src="http://26.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lky995E8Cd1qdmlfso1_500.gif "/>

    Azula as a Kyoshi Warrior
    <img src="http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ll3zc1gEaQ1qb6iyio1_500.gif "/>
    <img src="http://i172.photobucket.com/albums/w3/d_v_d_a/batmanOhfuck.gif "/>

    Crossroads of Destiny
    Azula is such a genre savvy villain.
    <img src="http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lmn9bsqY9a1qdmlfso1_500.gif "/>

    Sokka: The Man of Science
    “Can your science explain why it rains?” 
    “YES! YES IT CAN!” 

    The cynical logical guy doesn't win much in a fantasy series. Hence I love the episodes where Sokka gets to shine.

    Ozai vs Zuko
    "My father, who challenged me; a thirteen year old boy to an Agni Kai. How can you possibly justify a duel with a child… …It was cruel, and it was wrong!" 

    "Your Uncle's gotten to you hasn't he?" 
    "Yes, he has."

    <img src="http://30.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lh5f9nn5fs1qggr45o1_500.gif "/>

    You miscalculated
    How did you call this one Mark?
    <img src="http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lh3djrgBAY1qblfibo1_500.gif "/>

    Last Waterbender
    The moment when Katara stops the rain. Chilling.
    <img src="http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lhlwpnrEIe1qh547lo1_400.gif "/>
    (cont'd)

  5. Tauriel_ says:

    This was the epic finale of all epic finales. Full of epic battles and other epic… epicness.

    So here, have some (epic) GIFs:

    <img src="http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c251/Tauriel/smell_of_firebending.gif"&gt;

    <img src="http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c251/Tauriel/sokka_wheel.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c251/Tauriel/ozai_firebending_master.jpg"&gt;

  6. WHATATWIST says:

    Personally, I never knew why Zuko's Mother was regarded as such a loose end. It's implied Zuko will find out where his mother is and be reunited with her. That really ought to be enough for the viewer. It's not like we needed to see which house Albus Potter got sorted into at the end of Deathly Hallows.

    If it had been shown to us, it would have thrown off the pacing of the conclusion and wouldn't have had as much emotional resonance for the viewer as Zuko's earlier reunion with Iroh. It's easy to see why the thread ended where it did.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      Oh, I know that they couldn't satisfactorily finish Ursa's story in this series, not without seriously spoiling the pacing.

      But it's definitely a loose plot end, because Ursa's disappearance influenced Zuko in a major way, and it simply HAS to be resolved at some point in the future. Either as a flashback in The Legend of Korra or (my bet) in the comic that will be coming out next year before the new show. They can't possibly leave it unresolved.

      • Lariren says:

        Wait there are two comics? The Lost Adventures plus another? Have I been reading the interviews and announcements wrong?

        • Edogg says:

          Dark Horse and Nickelodeon to bring Avatar: the Last Airbender to Comics

          Additionally, Dark Horse will create all-new Airbender stories that will be published as digest-style original graphic novels—conveniently sized paperback collections—in early 2012. Picking up where the season three finale left off, this new series will follow the further adventures of Aang and his friends, as they help to rebuild a world torn apart by 100 years of war.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          The Lost Adventures is just a collection of all the previous comics (that went with the DVDs and on the Nick website, I think) in a single book.

          There will be new comic book released next year featuring new adventures of the Gaang about how they helped rebuild the world after the war. I think it's safe to assume that it will include Zuko's search for his mother and we'll finally learn whether she's dead or still alive.

          • Ken says:

            The Lost Adventures is all the previous comics PLUS some new ones, the next book will be all new ones.

            I seriously recommend getting a copy, I love mine.

    • ambyrglow says:

      As frustrated as I am not knowing what happened to Ursa, I sort of agree–I don't think it's a loose end for Zuko's character arc that he doesn't find his mother on screen. It's enough that we know he's going after her.

      The frustration comes from wanting to see Ursa's character arc, as an independent, fully realized character. I want to see what she made of herself, beyond being Zuko's Mom, in her years of exile–and I want to see what she chooses to do, now that her Long National Nightmare, so to speak, is over. I don't want to see Zuko get rewarded for saving the world by reuniting with his mother; I want to see Ursa get rewarded for saving her son with, well, whatever it is she wants.

      I don't think that could have been covered in the conclusion without, as you say, severely screwing up the pacing. I don't think it should have been; the show is Aang and Zuko and Katara and Sokka and Toph's story, not Ursa's. It doesn't need more main characters! But I do really, really wish they'd come out with a comic or post-series special that covered Ursa's story from Ursa's point of view.

      • arctic_hare says:

        THIS. Well said.

      • Lariren says:

        "Guide Me Home" over on fanfiction.net is what she did. I don't care if its entirely not canon its actually really well done. Also Hakoda/Ursa.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Yes! Spread "Guide Me Home" love! Hakoda/Ursa is my favourite non-canonical pairing EVER.

          Also, check out "Rocking the Boat", a lovely little sequel vignette to GMH. <3

          • Lariren says:

            I love the idea of them so much! I read the sequel and giggled the whole time.

            I tried to write a Hakoda/Ursa fic, it turned into Sokka, Zuko, and Katara arguing.

            • Tauriel_ says:

              Doesn't it always? XD

              I'm actually planning to turn "Rocking the Boat" into a comic – I have the rough sketch done, but I've been busy lately… *sigh* But it's on the list, right after my planned two Eleventh Doctor/Iroh pics…

  7. echinodermata says:

    The fight scenes in these last two parts are spectacular, and a lot of that goes to the music, as well as the animation. So I choose not to gif them, because they just wouldn't be the same.

    Instead, Azula thoughts!

    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/t8vus7.gif"&gt;
    I think Azula is one of the strongest characters on this show, and not just in the sense that she's powerful, but in terms of her characterization. We know her as a ruthless fighter, and from her first real entrance in S2, we know her to be an exacting perfectionist, where "one hair out of place" means "almost perfect" – but "almost isn't good enough." From the beginning, we're told Azula's own sense of self-worth is based on her control and physical performance. But moreover, we're told from her very first scene at the end of S1 that she's a weapon for her father to use. He gives her tasks, and she fulfills them.

    When I first watched the finale, I thought Azula's downward spiral was a bit rushed and I don't think I appreciated it fully because of that; I still wish it were more slowly paced throughout multiple episodes, and that we could see more in-between moments, but I think it's a suiting end, and the logical fate of her character.

    She was raised from childhood to please her father by being a great firebender, and so her being largely ignored by her father in this finale, and told to passively sit in the palace while he goes to war, is just an insult. With all the baggage she's carried since she was a child, furthered by the loss of her friends and the lack of acknowledgment from her father, I think it's perfect that she breaks. And I love that it's not pretty and it's not contained – she's a fighter through and through, and she'll do what she knows. So she goes out fighting, and it's frankly pretty hard to watch for me. She's still strong; she's not some delicate thing that just collapses – she fucking fights. But it was clear this wasn't a battle she was going to win, and that's just the ultimate slap to her, isn't it? She lost.

    <img src="http://i52.tinypic.com/2uiu06h.gif"&gt;
    And her losing is the worst we've ever seen her – screaming and crying and writhing and having lost the control she's valued in herself. It's such a shocking moment, and it's ugly, and it's sad, and it's worth pitying her for.

    Her story is so powerful to me because it feels real (okay, as real as someone who's able to shoot lightning and blue fire can be). Because being Azula was hard work, and sometimes, no matter one's physical prowess and mental discipline, the emotional burden of being perfect gets to be too much. And so she breaks, and it's gruesome, and this character that was such an amazing villain becomes someone to pity. Because even the people she kept trying to kill pity her in that moment.

    And that's why Azula is Fire Lord, nay, Phoenix Queen of my heart. Because more than any other, her story speaks to me in such powerful language that I have to appreciate her character and her arc. I can't not.

    In conclusion, I have made a habit of gif-ing every Mai/Zuko kiss, so here's the last one.
    <img src="http://i52.tinypic.com/20pq2rq.gif"&gt;
    Oh Mai, I love you (and wish you [and Ty Lee] featured in the finale more). And I'm glad Mai and Zuko can be happy, at last.

    • arctic_hare says:

      *applause, endless applause*

    • inkspotfancy says:

      I love this post sfm πŸ™‚ And totally agree with almost everything! The only one change I'd make:

      She was raised from birth to please her father by being a great firebender.

      That's always really bothered me. Ozia, the second child, ignored his firstborn and instead named his second child after Azulon. Even had Zuko been a firebending prodigy in his own right, I now doubt he would have found the same love from his father. Ozai was something like Snape in that respect IMO, taking his frustrations at his own life out on his children. Zuko who he shunned, and Azula…. let's just say I can just imagine her as a child. Training, all the time. Told perfection is required. We don't see it and maybe its not the case, maybe she's just really was born THAT MUCH better than Zuko. But given we're shown a little girl who doesn't even understand how to "play," I wouldn't be surprised if Ozai made *sure* she was a prodigy.

      • echinodermata says:

        Yeah, I think Ozai may have very well learned how to manipulate a child from his "failures" with Zuko, and amended his behavior to mold Azula into just what he wanted.

    • bookgal12 says:

      This post is amazing! I never felt bad for Azula until the moment in the finale when Ozai throws her aside. And that last Agni Kai, remains to this day my absolute favorite moment in the series.

    • Adding to the applause! I share a lot of traits with Azula; her character speaks deeply to me. So I really hope that, just as her brother did, she earns her redemption and finds her path (because I want that for myself).

      • echinodermata says:

        "I share a lot of traits with Azula; her character speaks deeply to me."

        YES. I know she's a villain and a bad person, but I know what it's like to struggle with not getting something perfectly, and that feeling of low self-worth when I can't get it right. And I also know what it's like to be the younger sister, out-achieving the older brother. And I think that the first part may indeed tie into the second. I can understand how she spirals out of control, because I'm the sort of person that bottles stress until one day I lock myself in a room and cry and maybe punch a pillow.

        I don't identify with characters, really ever: it's just not how I engage in stories. But I honestly do think Azula is the character I can see most of myself in on this show (with some hint of Mai as well).

        So I love that we see, as I said earlier, that being Azula is hard work.

    • MichelleZB says:

      I agree with this post, totally, and I'd even like to add that I disagree with something Mark says:

      She lived her life with all of the validation and positive attention that she could ever have asked for. (Even if she got those things by force.) She worked for nothing.

      It's not that she didn't work for anything. As Echinodermata says, we see her at the very beginning practicing her bending tirelessly, never satisfied with where she was, always wanting to get better. It had to be perfect–almost wasn't good enough. Azula is and was a hard worker.

      It's more that she grew up knowing her father's love and attention was conditional on her performance. If she kept producing, she'd continue to be his favourite. But he'd turned on Zuko and–if she made one tiny mistake–he could turn on her too, anytime. She is partly so wired because she's always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      She strives for perfection because she'll never be good enough, not to keep her father's love forever.

      It's enough to unseat any 15-year-old girl as they're faced with the unknown.

      • Tess says:

        I could not agree more.

        Azula was constantly aware that all the attention and praise she received was conditional and subject to being taken away if she failed in any way. She saw what happens when you aren't perfect — you get banished and humiliated. Her whole life was spent training for a perfection that was absolutely required if she was going to meet her most basic needs for love and acceptance — with the certain knowledge that she was frequently just a hair short of meeting that perfection.

    • jubilantia says:

      Flamio, echinodermata. Flame. Ee. Oh.

      Excellent analysis! I think it's great that they didn't kill off any characters, because seeing the actual aftermath and effects on their psyche after the climax isn't something that happens too much. Most of the time anyone on that kind of spiral is offed before they get to the saddening point we see here. And it is saddening, but I suppose it had to happen.

      Generally you see characters that are evil for the sake of it. With Azula, we are shown why, and it is one of the more realistic presentations of such a person that I've seen so far.

      And yeah. Mai and Ty Lee got a bit short-changed for screen time, but I guess we couldn't see everybody. It would have been cool if they'd managed to bust them out and bring them to the Azula battle, but I suppose there was no time.

  8. majere616 says:

    Dear Mark
    I've noticed something quite odd of late, an unexpected development in how I communicate. You see, I used to be rather flippant and callous in my use of slurs. "They're just words, what harm can they do?" I thought, but it is only very recently that I became aware of how much that had changed. It was a little over a week ago, an individual referred to one Hermione Granger as a "bitch." It was only through a vast display of personal restraint that I managed to refrain from drowning them in hellish flood of capslock and profanity fueled nerd rage. Now, this is by no means a rare occurrence in and of itself. What WAS strange was what had sparked my frothing fury. For than the fact that they had had the sheer audacity to insult one of my favourite characters in all of fiction, I was far more offended by the word they had chosen to do so. It was only then that I realized how much my (perhaps a tad excessive) time on your blogs had affected me. Huh… this comment kind of got away from me, didn't it? To the point! I just wanted to thank you for making me a better, more conscientious human being. So…um thank you.

    Now, Avatar. Fuck energybending. It is a cheap deus ex machina, plain and simple. They wrote Aang into a corner with his moral dilemma over killing what equates to Avatar Hitler (yeah screw Godwin's Law). I can understand that, he's a kid and this is cold blooded murder. It brings us the fascinating conflict of personal innocence versus the security of the world. I was so excited to see how Aang would overcome this, what clever third option he would devise. Except he doesn't. Instead here comes the mystical lion turtle to hand you the solution on a silver platter. Never mind that at no point in time was energybending even hinted at. It just feels like a cop out, and it's all the more frustrating because they are ending one of the best shows I've ever seen this way. It feels like a slap in the face, like the writers just didn't care that it was so blatantly contrived, and I hate it.

    • Patrick721 says:

      I do have some problems with energybending, but I don't hate it. I think a decent third option would have been for Aang to paralyze Ozai.

      Actually, how did that rock spike hitting him in the scar not damage his spine? I cringe every time I see that scene, because of how painful it looks.

    • I had the same reaction to energybending as you did. According to the art book, they had planned for Ozai to be defeated like that all along, but I do wish there had been some sort of build-up for or foreshadowing of that solution. And even though it turns out the lion-turtles were seeded visually throughout the series (and sometimes in dialogue), the fact that they exist doesn't actually foreshadow their mystical awesome pre-Avatar power or whatever. It did keep the finale from being wholly and completely satisfying for me, but there was more than enough awesome to make up for it.

      • sabra_n says:

        The strongest hint I remember was in "The Guru" – Guru Pathik outright said that the division between different kinds of bending is illusory.

        "If you open your mind, you will see that all the elements are one. Four parts of the same whole. Even metal is just a part of earth that has been purified and refined."

        So I guess Toph's discovery of metalbending was a kind of precedent for Aang's understanding of energybending. She got down deeper into the nature of earthbending, and Aang, being a bender of all four elements, got down deeper into the nature of all bending – underneath, it's all energy.

        But honestly, that's only something that came into my mind when I was rewatching with everyone else on this site. My first time through the show, I didn't remember Guru Pathik's words (or similarly themed ones from the swamp guru or Iroh) at all by the time the lion-turtle rolled around.

      • Tauriel_ says:

        I'm afraid anything more than really subtle hints would spoil the surprise. Aang's character has consistently been highly pacifist and anti-violence, he would never consciously and willingly kill anyone. That's why the "how to defeat Ozai" dilemma was such an interesting and dramatic plot point – no one knew how Aang would do it, and the uncertainty created some great suspense before the final episode.

        Now imagine we got more than shadowy hints about energybending before the finale (or if energybending was outright mentioned). Everyone would put two and two together and the answer that "Aang would never kill anyone, therefore he's going to use energybending to defeat Ozai" would be too obvious, and there would be hardly any suspense in the finale, just action.

        Plus, energybending makes sense within the internal logic of the Avatar world, where the titular character is a being that keeps being reincarnated, there is a spirit world, and people manipulate the four elements.

        • notemily says:

          I agree with this. If anyone had known about energybending, it would have been an obvious solution. The Lion Turtle gave Aang information that nobody else had, which is really hard to foreshadow.

    • ambyrglow says:

      I am less bothered by energybending (though I do think it could have been set up a little better; my biggest objection is that the turtle comes to Aang, rather than Aang going out and looking for it. I like my protagonists to be proactive.) than I am by the Random Rock of Reactivating the Avatar State. If all it took to reopen the chakra was some pressure, you'd think Toph's rock massage back in Nightmares and Daydreams would have done it.

      • NeonProdigy says:

        All of these things you said?

        I love them.

        Yeah, I love everything in this finale, except for the LionTurtle teaching Aang AsspullBending, the Random Rock (which you titled so well) and the scene where Aang uses Spirit/Energy Bending on Ozai.

        If those moments had been pulled off well, I'd have loved everything about this finale.

        I mentioned at the end of the liveblog that I'd have been more okay with Energybending and the Lionturtle miraculously knowing it, if it had been further foreshadowed.

        One person asked me if I'd have felt better if they'd put a lionturtle statue in the pilot like the originally planned or something.

        I never responded to that person, and I might go do that in a moment, but I'll respond here first:

        No. No that's ridiculous.

        A single statue is not adequate foreshadowing for THE METHOD THAT THE HERO WILL DEFEAT THE PRIMARY VILLAIN OF THE STORY WITH.

        Neither is a single spoken line about them from the Library episode.

        If this ending was planned from the beginning, then the creators should have seriously at least somehow imply that Energybending was possible early on somewhere.

        I know it sounds like I'm raging, but that's because I am! I'm furious that such a great series could have the ending (which will always stick out in my memory more than any episode) marred by this one thing!

        Considering how wonderful everything else in the finale is, I just thing that they could have done better with this one thing. πŸ™

    • MichelleZB says:

      Yes. I also have a problem with Energy Bending.

      ALSO why can't Ozai be Firelord anymore now that he can't bend again? Won't there be revolts to try and put him back on the throne? He's otherwise totally healthy.

      • lossthief says:

        I do believe he's officially out of power. He leaves the throne, naming Azula the Firelord in his stead, and declares himself The Phoenix King, a title that WOULD have taken effect if he had been successful in conquering the Earth Kingdom, however since he publicly gave the title to Azula, he no longer has a claim.

        Azula then placed the title of Fire Lord on the line when she challenged Zuko to the Agni Kai, and forfeited it when she attacked Katara who was until then a non-combatant observer. This means that Zuko, through Azula forfeiting the Agni Kai, has rightful claim to the throne.

      • Hyatt says:

        Won't there be revolts to try and put him back on the throne?

        There might be, but Ozai will have lost a lot of potential support because he's no longer a firebender, because he'll be seen as weaker and less worthy. Not to mention that quite a few would-be supporters will think twice about championing the cause of someone who very obviously shows the mark of the Avatar's justice.

    • BardChild says:

      I am sorry, I can't really understand anything, I just see "BAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW"

    • Hanibi says:

      Both the Lion Turtle and Energybending were foreshadowed a few times throughout the series.

      In some versions of the ancient classical elements – air, water, earth, and fire – there was also a fifth element of aether. It was considered space, the heavens, spirit energy.

      The way Roku's dragon communicated to Aang, and then Aang did the same to HeiBai in the Winter Solstice episodes way back in first season. Aang communicating with the tree in The Swamp. In each case, there was a glowing light. (Not to mention the glow of the Avatar State itself) That was the energy. As the Avatar, Aang just needed to learn how to bend it, just like the other elements.

      • NeonProdigy says:

        I'm sorry, but all of that is too vague to be foreshadowing.

        • BardChild says:

          I caught it first time around.

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          I don't like the idea that foreshadowing has to be more blatant. So it was unbelievably subtle…how is that a bad thing in and of itself?

          • Tauriel_ says:

            No it's not! I agree with you. And see my post above about suspense being killed by stronger hints.

          • NeonProdigy says:

            My problem is, it's not effective foreshadowing if it doesn't do what it says on the tin: foreshadow.

            It doesn't have to be blatant, but I'd like to be able to notice it 😐

            • Hanibi says:

              The point is, we know it wasn't just something they were forced to come up with at the last minute because they had written themselves into a corner. It's a very subtle Checkov's Gun, slipped just under our radar, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it really was there all along. So we can't legitimately accuse them of some cheap copout here.

              • NeonProdigy says:

                Ultimately, I just don't think the whole idea was a good one. And I sincerely doubt that anything will change that.

                So I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.

      • Kate says:

        I totally agree. It's subtle but there.
        I was annoyed the first time round when I watched it because it seemed like a massive ass pull but on a rewatch I noticed it happening between Aang and characters. It was just a subtle plot device.

    • MY big problem is this: when LionTurtle first talks to Aang, he says some things (maybe? It was very hard for me to understand). When Aang flashes back right after the magical Random Rock turns on his Avatar State, the LionTurtle says DIFFERENT THINGS. Like, what?

    • Tanz says:

      I have to say that as a long-time Buddhist I'm a little offended that you distill Aang's moral issue with killing someone down to "he's a little kid of course he doesn't want to kill anyone". You don't mature into being able, or ethically correct, to kill people. He was portrayed as a devout Buddhist throughout the entire show, it was a cornerstone. Killing the firelord would mean killing the entire basis of his spirituality. Sorry, the "he's just a kid" thing kind of irked me.

      • majere616 says:

        Sorry, I didn't mean for it to sound like that at all. I was kind of…well just vomiting words by that point. I should have put more thought into the implications. I'm truly sorry.

        • Tanz says:

          It's perfectly alright. πŸ™‚ This blog seems like a place where it's okay to nitpick over little things, so I kind of blurted that out! …Text-wise. I'm sure you didn't mean any negative with it. πŸ™‚

  9. tigerpetals says:

    Meta links about Azula and women in the finale reposted:
    http://snarp.dreamwidth.org/275177.html on the finale and female stereotypes in general http://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/299956.html On Azula and older women role models http://kaigou.dreamwidth.org/350898.html Deconstructing Azula

    • Moon_Shadow says:

      Interesting links — they bring up some things I hadn't considered. I do think interpreting it as power unhinging Azula is missing something, though: her becoming unhinged starts with losing her control over Mai and Ty Lee and finishes with her father giving her what she had viewed as ultimate power and then making it subordinate. She's unbalanced because she has effectively lost the power she had and found out that, having played by what she understood to be the rules all her life, she "lost" anyway. In short, it's losing power, not gaining it, that makes her "crazy" in the end. And having the people she loved — Mai, Ty Lee and Ozai — all reject her, of course. Just my take.

      • breesquared says:

        While I agree that these are probably what triggered Azula's downfall, from a more distant perspective (ie not as much critical thinking) the show presents Azula's story as "Azula becomes Fire Lord > Azula becomes consumed with paranoia > Azula loses". She was not on screen often enough between The Boiling Rock and these scenes for a less engaged viewer to consider the psychology of it all. Which is important to remember since this show is aimed at 7-yr-olds.
        I agree with you, but I also see how others could interpret it, and I think it's valid.

    • echinodermata says:

      I did end up reading those last night, and honestly, the main reason I don't really accept the argument that Azula's fate is 'woman in power – can't handle it' is because in the finale, she was more powerless than anything. It goes back to my comment yesterday, but "Fire Lord" was a meaningless title, and all it meant was that her title means she has to stay in the palace instead of out fighting. I see it as a reduction of power. And so I don't see it as fitting the trope outlined in some of those links.

      • breesquared says:

        I reallyyy don't think Fire Lord would've been a totally powerless position. She would have been in control of the Fire Nation areas of the world; Phoenix Kind would be like the King to her Baroness. She has some government control, but there's a supervisor.

        • echinodermata says:

          Sorry, I didn't mean to say the entire "Fire Lord" title is powerless, because had Ozai won, she certainly would have stuff to do, I imagine. It's just that in the time we see Azula get the title to the agni kai, it was a pretty worthless title and didn't give her anything to do. (And I argued yesterday it was a meaningless title to her because it wasn't a promotion – it was a continuation of the status quo.)

          • breesquared says:

            This is all very true. She was basically housesitting.

          • Hyatt says:

            It was actually a demotion of sorts; instead of being given a vital mission or ruling at her father's right hand, he leaves her behind to do the same job she set Joo Dee up to do in Ba Sing Se. Sure, she has a title and nominally has power and responsibility, but a brainwashed flunky could just as easily do the job, and she knows it.

        • lovelyhera says:

          Right, but it's not the power she expected to have – it's not the power her father had when he had the title. Basically, she thought (rightly) that she would eventually be the TOP when she was Firelord. And even if Firelord now has some power, it doesn't have THE power. I think she feels (and I would agree) cheated out of what she feels she deserved and legitimately worked her ass of to achieve – that is recognition in her own right as a ruler, not simply as "custodian of the fire nation" while her father rules the world.

          • breesquared says:

            She had no shot at being a Fire Lord with power until her father's death, even before the invention of Phoenix King. And I'd assume that if Ozai had won and became PK, when he eventually died Azula would assume that position as well. It was probably quite frustrating for her, but no different from what she probably expected to get by age 14 either.

  10. Moon_Shadow says:

    What, no mention of the awesome that is Suki — a non-bender unarmed and alone — taking over that airship off-camera and coming back to save Toph and Sokka? I thought in a lot of ways that was the coolest part of the episode.

    • Chris says:

      also before that when she gets separated from Sokka and Toph she yells "I'm ok, just finish the mission!" HELL YA SUKI.

  11. Dragonsong12 says:

    Thank YOU, Mark. Thank you so much for sharing all your joys and pain and experiences with us. Thank you for letting us enjoy something we love all over again and giving it new life and context. Thank you for everything.
    It has been an honor to watch this Nickelodeon animated TV series with you, sir.

  12. brotorious says:

    soon after the series ended, i found myself quickly growing cynical: about the fandom mostly, but it bled into my opinion of the series itself. "mark watches avatar" truly did remind me why i gave a shit in the first place. i mean, you found something positive to say about "the great divide." i haven't heard anyone say ANYTHING positive about "TGD" in five fucking years. obviously, it'll suffer in comparison to "the blind bandit" or "the boiling rock part 2," but still. well shit, how about those reviews of the first two episodes? you were all like, "i know this kid's the avatar! why hide it?" and it was JUST the right question and suddenly the glory of season one was made apparent to me. so much information in season one that i just took for granted.

    and that's the other thing. i've been a fan for like, a hundred years now (approx.). as much time as i've spent obsessing over the characters and their motivations (okay, mostly their romantic inclinations), as much time as i've spent pretending i could earthbend or playing waterbenders with my little sister at the public pool, i've never really THOUGHT about avatar. occasionally i'll get a brief glimpse of insight, but i rarely considered its narrative structure, its storytelling devices, the thematic parallels, what have you. your reviews have been remarkably insightful and endlessly illuminating, even if i did already know zuzu was gonna turn out alright.

    your enthusiasm is infectious. thank you.

    to commemorate (mourn, really) the end of mark watches avatar, i made an AMV. it's my first, but i hope ya'll enjoy it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbtUwSNCJjA

    <img src="http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/594/1236407959481120.png"&gt;
    <img src="http://img193.imageshack.us/img193/5789/1275976824771.jpg"&gt;

  13. Thank you, Mark, for making me fall in love with this show all over again. And thank you, everyone else, for all the fun GIFs and beautiful fanart and funny comics and sweet fanvids and hilarious comments and insightful analysis and collective squee and I AM GOING TO START CRYING AT WORK HERE.

    Shit, I don't want it to be over. Again.

    • arctic_hare says:

      Me either! ;_; This is really weird for me, I had it end for the first time so recently, and now this is coming to an end too, so soon.

      • I mean, I'm excited for BSG as well, but it will be a bunch of different people! I LIKE YOU GUYS. EVERYONE START WATCHING BSG JUST TO ENTERTAIN ME.

        • I will be here! I loves me some BSG. Just got it on Blu-ray — perfect timing for Mark Watches!

        • breesquared says:

          I didn't know he was doing BSG next! BBCAmerica keeps running commercials for it (which kiiiind of bothers me because BBCA has been running tons of American-produced shows, which is not what I subscribed to BBC for). It looks like a great sci-fi show. :]

        • jubilantia says:

          I'll be there, but I've heard it's much more grim, so no matter what, there will be a different dynamic. HE SHOULD INTERSPERSE OURAN IN BETWEEN. Something made of rainbows and puppies and cherry blossoms and happiness.

        • elusivebreath says:

          I don't comment a ton, but I'll be here for BSG πŸ™‚ Basically if Mark is going to read/watch somthing I'll be there. It's been totally worth it so far!

        • hpfish13 says:

          I'll be there!!! I have about 15 episodes left of the last season!

    • jubilantia says:

      RIGHT? Now I have to go through the cycles of grief again. Kind of like what happens between George R. R. Martin books.

      I think I watched the bootlegged copies from Britain way back when, but I have watched the whole thing again with two different sets of friends since, and it is never easy.

  14. Dragonsong12 says:

    Also? SOKKA'S SPACE SWORD HAD BETTER BE IN LEGEND OF KORRA!
    seriously.

    • Patrick721 says:

      What about Sokka? He can be like Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond.

      WOLFBATMAN BEYOND.

      • YES OMG THIS MUST HAPPEN.

        • icingflarewhite says:

          Spoilers/Speculation for Legend of Korra

          According to what I've heard the creators have said that everyone from The Last Airbender is dead by the time Legend of Korra comes along. Now this could all just be a rumor, but if it is true I don't think we expect Sokka to show up but his boomerang might.

          • Tauriel_ says:

            There is still the possibility of flashbacks… (I'd love to see the grown-up members of Team Avatar)

            It's pretty safe to assume that Aang will appear as Korra's spiritual guide, since he was the Avatar before her (much like Roku was a spiritual guide to Aang).

    • Tauriel_ says:

      I'm sure Toph was able to locate it with her Earthbending (she should be able to "smell" the space metal from miles, probably). And Sokka will become a great swordsman and there will be legends about him by the time of TLOK. I'm certain of it. *nods*

    • Colin says:

      I've never thought about this, but that would be immensely satisfying. πŸ™‚ Maybe an episode devoted to taking it back to the pole.

    • Avatar_fan_mom says:

      Late to the action, but hey – if Iroh can somehow get a hold of Avatar Roku's crown (that was buried in lava over 100 years ago) and hide it out in the prison walls, there is a chance.

  15. Lariren says:

    Oh man I love "Into the Inferno" the best because of pretty much everything you said. The music is perfect and it sets up the last episode as pretty much saying "No one is safe, look we've just fately wounded Zuko."

    And I don't care what anyone else says: ZUKO TOOK LIGHTENING FOR KATARA!!!!!!!!! EEEEEEE!!!!!

    I love how beautifully everything is done in the finale and just how much you care about everyone's story even though you are bounced back between four different ones (BUMI MADE A TANK TOWER).

    From watching ending the show with friends last week: "Ursa is totally in Ba Sing Se, why else would they all go to Iroh's tea shop?…You know besides Iroh being awesome." Though I would really like to know what happened to her.

  16. Patrick721 says:

    SO MANY THOUGHTS
    -I, like everyone else, never thought I'd feel sorry for Azula. Bravo, writers. Bra-motherfucking-vo.
    -Zuko vs. Azula=some of the most beautiful animation EVER.
    -Energybending-kinda came out of nowhere, but I don't care all that much, because every single moment of the fight between Ozai and Aang was beautiful.
    -Order of the White Lotus taking back Ba Sing Se? HOLY FUCK DO NOT MESS WITH OLD PEOPLE. Seriously, Iroh was a BOSS. And Jeong-Jeong just hovering like 50 feet off the ground, throwing up huge walls of fire? Damn. And Piandao, a man who has no bending, just gliding on the ice Pakku made like he's wearing skates and defeating all those firebenders? Everything was amazing.
    -I love how all the firebending is so much brighter. That's some attention to detail. It perfectly conveys just what the Comet does.
    -Sokka, Suki, and Toph=so awesome. Metalbending is pretty badass.
    -"We really bonded in prison!" Damnit brain, get out of the gutter.
    -Fire Lord Zuko AW YEAH. HAIL TO THE FIRELORD, BABY.
    -This show gives new meaning to "earn your happy ending"
    -"Don't you ever break up with me again." I love Zuko's expression here. That nervous, 'please don't stab me' smile.
    -Damn it, tell us where Zuko's mother is Ozai.
    -Huzzah for a happy ending!

    And, lastly:
    CANNOT WAIT FOR LEGEND OF KORRA. VG'F TBVAT GB OR NINGNE RKPRCG VA N UHTR FGRNZCHAX PVGL NAQ NNAT NAQ XNGNEN'F FBA VF TBVAT GB GRNPU XBEEN NVEORAQVAT NAQ UR'F IBVPRQ OL W.X. FVZZBAF NAQ VS FBXXN'F FGVYY NEBHAQ VG'YY OR YVXR ONGZNA ORLBAQ. AB, JBYSONGZNA ORLBAQ.

    • NeonProdigy says:

      -"We really bonded in prison!" Damnit brain, get out of the gutter.

      You are hardly the only one who's brain is in the gutter from that line.

      It probably doesn't help that my primary ship in AtLA is TyZula…

  17. Tauriel_ says:

    I always laugh so hard at the "birthday on the airship" scene. Those Fire Nation soldiers are so gullible! I mean, come on – you're in the middle of a freakin' INVASION, do you honestly think your captain would just stop and take time to celebrate someone's birthday? XD

  18. Lariren says:

    On another random fandom note I've noticed: who won the Agni Kai? Did Azula forfeit because she attacked Katara? Or do you win when you knock your opponate off their feet (which would make sense from the one with Zhoa)?

    Just wondering.

  19. Tauriel_ says:

    Soooo…. The Last Airbender Movie Liveblog. *nudgenudgewinkwinksaynomore* Are you going to do it, Mark?

    DO IT! I DARE YOU! XD

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I'll do it after Comic-Con/LeakyCon. πŸ™‚

      • Lycanthromancer says:

        NOOOOOOO!!!

        Don't do it, Mark! You'll ruin all the happy memories!

        [/secretly happy because he is a sadist]

      • Tauriel_ says:

        YES!!! πŸ˜€

        I don't know if you drink alcohol, but it really helps if you watch that travesty slightly inebriated – makes the whole experience slightly surreal and it's so easy to ridicule and abuse and make fun of it. XD

        • samibear says:

          Well now I'm just trying to come up with a The Last Airbender Movie drinking game. Why did I never think of this before…

          • Lariren says:

            Drink the entire time. That's how I play when my friends who I've had watch the series then decide we need to see the movie.

            Alternatively drink every time someone says Ah-vatar, tea, or honor. Down whatever you have when there is a reference to something that in the show is from season 2 or 3.

          • Chris says:

            everytime Zhao mentions the Library!

            • Tauriel_ says:

              And two shots for every time Zhao returns to the Fire Nation for no other reason than to chat with the Fire Lord about the Secret Scroll from the LIBRARY!

        • Phlip says:

          When I watched the movie, I would watch as much as I could stand, then pause it and do something else to recover and come back to it tomorrow.

          It took me a month and a half to get to the end.

  20. affableevil says:

    I can't even really make a totally coherent comment on this episode and on this part of your Watches blog essentially ending so you're going to get a stream of dribble instead.

    http://rinoaneko.deviantart.com/gallery/5040304?o…. <——- Probably one of my most favorite pieces of fanart. Oh god, Azula just makes me so sad in these last few episodes. She is every bit as much a product of her upbringing as Zuko was. The difference is only that she was more inherently talented, so her father saw fit to fashion her into a weapon and wait until her usefulness was used up before casting her aside. At the end of the day, she's still a fourteen (fourteen!!) year old girl from an extremely fucked up family.

    And. And I don't even know how to address this whole thing ending, you guys πŸ™ I just can't. So, I'll leave you all with this instead:
    <img src="http://i55.tinypic.com/29fw7li.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

    This is how I felt reading this blog, thanks to all of you (especially Mark!) for making it so fun!
    <3

    <img src="http://i54.tinypic.com/2ewnou1.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  21. Tauriel_ says:

    Also, is it just me, or does Azula in this picture look totally like Rose Tyler? Just picture her with blonde hair… πŸ˜€

    <img src="http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20081209230704/avatar/images/0/00/Azula-visions.PNG"&gt;

  22. Manself says:

    I love Avatar. There really is now other way to say it. I love this show. I grew up with this show. The day after ATLA ended, I felt like I had just lost a dear friend, and was moved to tears by a television show for the first time in my life (Though it would certainly not be my last. But we’ll get to that soon enough.). At first, I was embarrassed by what I perceived as a moment of melodrama. But looking back, I see that my emotions were perfectly justified. I had spent 4 years completely wrapped up in Avatar, immersing myself in online fandom and discussing the show with friends. And then it was gone. Since that day, I have found plenty of other shows to obsess over in its place. But Avatar: The Last Airbender will always stick with me as the first show that made me feel like a fan. This show has deepened my understanding of storytelling and character, as well as some of my friendships, and I will never apologize for loving it. It has been such a joy reliving my ATLA experience through your reviews, Mark, and I cannot thank you enough.
    <img src="http://i51.tinypic.com/2s60bhh.png&quot; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  23. kartikeya200 says:

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale1.jpg"&gt;

    "Today, destiny is our friend. I know it."

    This is the big one. I have so many thoughts on this series and this finale as a whole, but I think I'll save those for a later post if I can organize them well enough. I think in this case, as the last art post, I'm going to just let the creators speak for themselves.

    Thanks for letting me revisit one of my absolute favorite works of fiction in any medium in this way, Mark. It was awesome going through it with you.

    There are a few quotes that I want to use that nevertheless contain variations of the word 'crazy'. I've replaced the words and marked them with brackets. I would like to ask that people please don't get into yet another debate about how these words are harmless in this thread; the site rules have been made really clear and the argument is tired. Thanks.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale2.jpg"&gt;

    The effects of the comet, coupled with Azula's deteriorating mental state, caused the flames in the throne room to turn to her signature blue when she took over.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale3.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale4.jpg"&gt;

    I made it a point to do my best to enjoy each part of the process over the years of making Avatar, which was difficult to do at times due to the (immense) task we set out for ourselves and the crammed production schedule. My main goal was simply to finish telling the whole story. Beyond that, I wanted to make the finale better than anything we had ever done. Mike and I and the whole crew were exhausted by the time we actually made it to the finale production, but there was an air of a real journey coming to an end. Everyone gave all they had to execute the climactic conclusion. Watching the finale in the Paramount Pictures theater with our crew, colleagues, friends, and family, and again with the fans at San Diego Comic-Con, brought an indescribable sense of closure to my mind.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale5.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale6.jpg"&gt;

    The finale was originally written as having only three parts. But during the storyboarding process of part three, there were so many drawings that it was evident all the story and action weren't going to fit into one episode. So we made the decision in mid-production to expand part three into two. This meant more work for everyone, especially the animators at JM Animation who would now have to animate twice as many scenes. But as with every other challenge on the series, all the artists rose to the occasion and made the last two episodes of the highest quality. Once again, I was impressed and humbled by the artists' dedication to Avatar.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale7.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale8.jpg"&gt;

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale9.jpg"&gt;

    We had the idea for the lion-turtle early in the series and always knew he would play an important role in helping Aang unlock a skill that would help him defeat the Fire Lord. The lion-turtle is the oldest creature in the Avatar world, from a time that predates the Avatar and bending. We planted this mythic creature's image in a few places throughout the series. It first appeared in the pilot episode's main title, then later Aang saw a picture of one in "The Library", and there were also lion-turtle statues around the grounds of Piandao's castle.

    <img src="http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y29/kartikeya/Avatar/finale10.jpg"&gt;

    A very high level of detail went into creating this massive creature. Unfortunately, in the final animation, the lion-turtle wasn't rendered quite as epic and impressive as we'd imagined. We're happy we can show the design here, as we meant it to be seen.

  24. teaspooncapacity says:

    Damn, it's over. πŸ™ BRB, tearbending forever! But thanks Mark for taking me once again on the magical journey that is Avatar. Thanks to you I have uncovered another layer of the complex Avatar world and I grow to love it more and more.

    I am so glad that you have joined the ranks of Avatar fans in celebrating the glorious creation that is Avatar: the Last Airbender. Here is one of my favorite scenes (and I'm sure one of everyone else's as well) in the entire damn series. It deserves to be embedded here.

    [youtube jy_Th2M4PX8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy_Th2M4PX8 youtube]

    • hhgrrl says:

      THANK YOU for posting that! Everything about that scene is perfect, imo. I don't see how any could NOT love it, what with the gorgeous animation and beautiful music.

  25. Embies says:

    All the Azula scenes before the Agni Kai were storyboarded by Lauren Montgomery, an artist specialized in animating female characters.
    She's now one of the most important women working in american animation. She's deeply involved in the DC animated movies and directed some of the best ones.

    Here's her DA, which includes Avatar art and storyboards:
    http://notthepornstar.deviantart.com/

    I just love her.

    • Time-Machine says:

      OMG. Thank you for sharing her talent. She's amazing, and I had no idea she existed.

    • breesquared says:

      I found all the scenes with Azula (especially) impressively animated. all the physical expressions were clear and distinct, there was new dimension to her face, the disheveled appearance seemed very natural… yeah, basically, those scenes stand out in the finale for human animation. (Scenic animation goes to the Aang/Ozai fight of course).

  26. brotorious says:

    Just….oh my god, when Aang is able to summon all four elements to create that thing??? That sphere of air with rings of water, fire, and earth?

    I'LL BE IN MY AANGRY DOME

    <img src="http://img40.imageshack.us/img40/377/aangrydomez.gif"&gt;
    <img src="http://img560.imageshack.us/img560/3766/angrydome.gif"&gt;

  27. @maybegenius says:

    I don't even know what to say about the finale that a dozen other people won't say before me. It's a fantastic ending. For me, the very best endings are the ones that feel suitably resolved, but still leave me desiring more. I could probably live in ATLA world forever, just watching them grow up and have *antics*, but I feel good about how they ended it. There are still some questions left unanswered, and yet nothing that I feel completely cheated by not knowing.

    I did want to touch on the animation for these episodes. Holy balls, right? Completely stunning and high-budget. Just beautiful.

    I commented on this while we did the live blog, but even though I'd seen the finale before and I knew what was going to happen, I WAS STILL SO TENSE. When Suki/Sokka/Toph are leaping from airship to airship and shit's flying everywhere and they lose Suki and then Sokka hurts his leg and then Toph's hanging off the side and then there are Fire Nation soldiers everywhere and boomerang's gone and space sword's gone and then Aang's battling Ozai and he can't go into the Avatar state and Zuko's facing off Azula while Katara stands by and then Zuko gets zapped and FUUUUUUUUUUUU. SO TENSE.

    One of the most unbelievably beautiful and well-done scenes throughout this series is the Azula/Zuko fight. I just can't even. The understated music alongside the absolutely stunning choreography and swirling blues and oranges. It's really, really uncomfortable for me to watch Azula's breakdown because it's like the complete destruction of her character. She's been so 100% loatheable antagonist ever since we met her, but here, where she's buckling under pressure and betrayal and her own psyche… it's the first time she felt HUMAN to me. She was always just cold, calculating Azula. But here we see her as a stressed and wounded young woman. Which doesn't change the fact that she's TRYING TO KILL TWO OF OUR BELOVED HEROES. It's just painful.

    Katara's victory scene never fails to blow me away. It's like a visual representation of her journey to becoming a waterbending master — her cleverness and control are almost symbolic of her emotional journey. She began as a emotionally turbulent, subtly angry girl, carrying the weight of her mother's death and father's leaving with her everywhere, and she's finally reached some form of closure. She's not only mastered water, she's mastered her anger.

    Iroh and Zuko never fail to make me sob. When Zuko's voice cracks, I DIE A LITTLE INSIDE. And then Iroh gathers him up in a hug and heals me all better again.

    The way Aang releases the Avatar State and defeats Ozai on his own terms is so powerful. He doesn't overcome him as the Avatar. He overcomes him as 12-year old Aang. WITH ENERGY BENDING. I CAN'T.

    FIRE LORD ZUKO. YOU MAKE ME SO PROUD. HUGS AND BFFS FOREVER.

    And then it's the most beautiful happy ending that ever beautiful'd and everyone is together and Sokka's drawing a terrible portrait and everyone's laughing and the world is perfect.

    This story curls up inside me and keeps me warm, I swear. I'm so glad you decided to watch and we got to share this with you, Mark.

  28. Kaci says:

    Oh, Mark. I am so, so glad you loved this show. I love what you said about Azula (all I could picture while you were liveblogging it was "omg, Mark's face right now has to be amazing") and Zuko.

    Seriously, though, at the end, when Zuko asks where his mother is? For some reason, I thought that was the writers telling us that there'd be a spin off–not Korra, but a spin off of Zuko traveling the world using his tracking abilities to find his mother. And I was so excited. And it has never happened. And for that I am deeply sad. WOE.

    • hhgrrl says:

      Those involved with the series were toying with the idea of a fourth season dedicated to Zuko looking for his mother.

  29. frogANDsquid says:

    Zuko taking the hit for Katara was my favorite image hands down. Its not because i ship Zutara but because of how far everything has come from the first episode. In the first episode we saw a teenager whose life was full of anger and had no problem with striking down those who helped the avatar. And now at the end of the show we see that same boy who is now helping the avatar and his friends. You couldnt have said it any better mark, Zuko is one of the most fantastic characters to have been created.

    Goodbye avatar…again.

  30. Brieana says:

    I have some things to say.
    1. I love Suki and I think she's quite attractive for a cartoon.
    2. I still don't like Maiko.
    3. "From Ty Lee joining the Kyoshi Warriors (THE MOST PERFECT THING EVER HOW DID I NEVER THINK OF THAT)" Ty Lee said that they bonded in prison, but didn't they go to different prisons?

  31. irrelevanttroubadour says:

    What a journey it's been *sniffle*.

  32. George says:

    Wait! What's this?! Oh yeah, it's my new favourite GIF!
    <img src="http://markreads.net/reviews/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/icannotbelieve.gif"/&gt;

    The one thing I honestly didn't really like about the finale was the kiss between Aang and Katara. I mean, I could see it coming and it made sense-and I have nothing against the pairing- but it felt kind of icky to me.

    • breesquared says:

      HE'S WEARING A TARDIS SHIRT ajdfsfS;;;
      I'm sorry, I find that so excellent. I want a TARDIS shirt :[

    • MichelleZB says:

      Agreed. I have no problem that Aang/Katara ended up together at the end, but their kiss felt age-inappropriate. They sucked each other's faces off!! EWWWWWWWWW Aang is 12.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      He looks like a confused hamster there. <3

    • Jancro says:

      We need to make one of those Macro's with Aang's Face:

      Mature enough to fight a Genocidal Dictator twice my age who has the power of a million suns.

      Too young to kiss a girl.

    • herpestidae says:

      … What is the story behind this GIF?

    • Strabo says:

      Age inappropiate? They are old enough to be married and have children in many cultures – including our own up until very recently (second half of the 20th century).

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Not within their world, though – we know that the marrying age in the Water Tribe is 16 (Katara is only 14 at the end of the series), and while we don't know what the marrying age among the Air Nomads was (or indeed if they had such thing as marriage), I seriously doubt it would be 12.

      • breesquared says:

        One of the reasons it changed recently is because we realized young teens aren't typically mature enough for consenting to marriage. Note that most of those young marriages were arranged by parents, not themselves.

  33. Evil Midnight Lurker says:

    I choose to believe that Sokka, Suki, Toph, Ty Lee, and possibly even Yue get together and found a lineage of ABSOLUTE BADASSES post-series. πŸ™‚

    • Tauriel_ says:

      In my headcanon, they all (maybe except Aang, who is the Avatar, and Zuko, who is the Fire Lord and therefore very busy) joined the Order of the White Lotus. πŸ™‚

  34. Brieana says:

    Not in response to the Avatar review, but in response to the bit about what you're doing next what about The Golden Compass review?

  35. Castlejune says:

    First off, yay! This series finale truely cemented it as one of my favorite shows of all time. It is also my second most re-watched TV shows, the only one topping it being "Wonderfalls", which will always be first since I re-watch it once or twice a year (if you haven't seen it, check it out! Damn you Fox for canceling it after just four episodes!). The beautiful artwork, music, storytelling, and…just…everything! Sigh. Love. This. Show.

    I'll probably limit my comments to responses to others at this point, because it's all been said, but I wanted to share some amusing results of my obsession with this show, created with the help of my equally obsessed friends.

    First, for all those who missed out on the liveblog, I give you Azugle: the most inspiring and also terrifying voice you could have for your GPS:
    1. "Well, your destination sounds really shallow and insipid. Let's try…RECALCULATING. You fool!How dare you disobey me?!"

    2."Turn right at the next light, or I will direct you into a volcano, running over as many of your friends and relatives as possible along the way."

    3. "This next turn is so sharp it could pierce the hull of a fire navy battle cruiser, leaving thousands to drown in icy waters."

    4. "Does the road control your route? Will the road hesitate to send you over a cliff? Maybe you should worry less about the road, and more about me since I'm still making up my mind."

    5. "Together, we will find the fastest route in the entire world! It will dominate all other routes!"

    6. "You are an utterly incompetent driver whom should have been strangled at birth instead of burdening the rest of us with your indecision and lack of direction"

    Secondly, I know "Toph Bei-Fong Jokes" have been seen here before, by due to a long week of boredom at work and the lightning strike of inspiration, I wanted to share what we came up with:

    1. The reason air bison fly is that they are trying to get away from Toph Bei-Fong.
    2. Water tribesmen stay at the poles because they are afraid of Toph Bei-Fong.
    3. In all of recorded history, only 3 people beat the avatar in a fair fight. Toph Bei-Fong did so with both arms tied behind her back. While in a full body cast.
    4. Sozin's comet came to earth, but when it saw Toph Bei-Fong waiting for it, it turned around and left. Every century, it stops by to check if she is still here. She is.
    5. Airbenders weren't wiped out because of the fire nation. They all died of despair because Toph Bei-Fong said their element was stupid.
    6. Running from Toph Bei-Fong is the reason the air nation became nomads.
    7. Toph Bei-Fong doesn't earthbend. The earth does what she wants because it knows better than to piss her off.
    8. Toph Bei-Fong isn't blind, she is simply incapable of seeing anything less awesome than she is.
    9. General Iroh spent 600 days tryng to enter Ba Sing Se. Toph Bei-Fong took 30 seconds.
    10. General Iroh broke through the outer wall of Ba Sing Se, saw Toph Bei-Fong waiting for him, and turned his army around to run for the fire nation.
    11. Toph Bei-Fong invented metal bending…oh wait THAT ONE IS TRUE!
    12. Toph Bei-Fong didn't invent metal bending. When Toph Bei-Fong gets mad at metal, it tries to bend itself into a position that is more pleasing to her.
    13. All of Toph Bei-Fong's chakras opened instantly in fear of her.
    14.The reason avatar Roku threw himself into a volcano is that he heard Toph Bei-Fong would teach him earthbending in his next life, and he didn't want to wait.
    15. The Great Divide was created by Toph Bei-Fong so that she would have a place to keep her pet canyon crawlers.

    If you have any ideas for either Azugle or Toph Bei-Fong, reply so I can have more amusement!

    • Castlejune says:

      16. Toph Bei-Fong once held up an entire lirary with her bare hands while a god like spirit was trying to take it away from the world of man…oh wait THAT ONE IS ALSO TRUE!

      17. The Great Divide was created by Toph Bei-Fong when she rolled over in her sleep.

      18. Fire Lord Ozai banished Zuko in the hopes that Toph Bei-Fong would join his family instead.

      19. The reason no one in the fire nation dances is because they heard that the vibrations from their dancing feet attracted Toph Bei-Fong's attention.

      20. The fire nation military wears masks because they are afraid to look Toph Bei-Fong in the eye.

      21. Humanity isn't unworthy of Wan She Tong's knowledge; Wan Shi Tong removed his library from the world because he knew Toph Bei-Fong was right outside.

      22. Humanity isn't unworthy of Wan She Tong's knowledge; Wan Shi Tong removed his library from the world because he heard Toph Bei-Fong call books useless, and he didn't want to defile her presence.

      23. An Agni Kai used to be called a Toph Bei-Fong but it was impossible for either side to win, unless one of them was Toph Bei-Fong.

      24. If Toph Bei-Fong punched a saber-tooth-moose-lion in the face, it would split into a moose, a lion, and a firebender becuase when Toph Bei-Fong punches you, you always get more than you bargained for.

      25. Toph Bei-Fong's parents paid two men to get her back because they were terrified of unleashing her onto the world.

      26. Ty-Lei once tried to poke away Toph Bei-Fong's bending abilities, and her fingers broke. And then she exploded.

      27. The avatar is the bridge to the spirit world. Toph Bei-Fong is the battering ram.

      28. Toph Bei-Fong stole Koh's face.

      29. Toph Bei-Fong didn't learn earthbending from the badger moles. The badger moles learned how to earthbend from Toph Bei-Fong.

      30. M. Night Shymalan once disrespected Toph Bei-Fong and buried his career so deep into the earth that he will never dig himself out.

      31. The reason the world had to wait for the Avatar to save it is because Toph Bei-Fong didn't feel like it.

      32. "And although his skills are great, he's got a lot to learn before he's even worthy to be in the presence of Toph Bei-Fong.

      33. Avatar Kyoshi hides her face with paint because although she is a six foot tall Avatar who defeated Chin the Great and created her own island, she still isn't as awesome at earthbending as Toph Bei-Fong.

      34. I'm not saying that Toph Bei-Fong CAUSED Roku's island to explod; all I know is that the volcano erupted right after Roku claimed he was the greatest earthbender in the world.

      35. Firelord Ozai checks his closet every night every night for Toph Bei-Fong.

      36. Some kids fantasize about being the Avatar. The Avatar fantasizes about being Toph Bei-Fong.

      37. Toph Bei-Fong killed Dumbledore. Yeah. That's right.

      38. The moon spirit didn't "die" when it disappeared from the sky; it hid its face in shame because it couldn't match the color of Toph Bei-Fong's eyes.

      39. Zuko would have joined the GAang in Ba-sing-se, but Toph Bei-Fong said he had to do something epic before she could allow him in the group. The only thing he could think of to qualify was to face down the firelord and shoot lightning at him. Even still, Toph Bei-Fong only allowed him to join after he threw himself off a cliff and survived. Twice.

      40. Toph Bei-Fong is so awesome, she is the only character in Avatar that is allowed to have a last name (which is also true. Think about it).

      41. The day of black sun was just the day Toph Bei-Fong was born. The sun hid in shame because the greatest being in the world didn't care to see it's light.

      42. Cumbustion man blew himself up in shame when he learned Toph Bei-Fong said he had a vagina drawn on his head.

      43. Toph Bei-Fong didn't object to Zuko trying to kill the Avatar; she was just disgusted that he was too much of a pansy to do the job himself.

      44. When Foamy (the man who foams at the mention of the Avatar) met Toph Bei-Fong, his head exploded.

      45. When the assassin learned Toph Bei-Fong was in the group he was supposed to kill off, he invented long distance firebending with his mind so that he didn't have to get within a mile of Toph Bei-Fong.

    • Castlejune says:

      46. Combustion Man's "attacks" are just what happens to his brain every time he thinkgs about Toph Bei-Fong.
      47. Zuko's mom didn't flee the fire nation because she was a fugitive. She fled because she heard Toph Bei-Fong was coming.
      48. Avatar Aang trapped himself in an iceberg because he heard Toph Bei-Fong was coming, but that she wouldn't be taking students for another 100 years.
      49. King Bumi didn't stay in his metal box because of "neutral jing". He stayed in his metal box because Toph Bei-Fong told him to stop meddling, SHE would take care of it.
      50. King Bumi stayed in his metal box to try to figure out how Toph Bei-Fong metal bended. He gave up on the day of black sun, and his despair blocked out the light.
      51. Ursa didn't kill Fire Lord Azulon. He died of fright the day Toph Bei-Fong was born.
      52. Toph Bei-Fong solved global warming by bending the earth away from the sun.
      53. Toph Bei-Fong once brewed a tea so delicious, Iroh wept for three days straight.
      54. The fire nation used to be one giant land mass like the earth kingdom, but when the Firelord scoffed at Toph Bei-Fong's practical hair bun, she punched the ground so hard that it broke and scattered, creating the island chain that bleeds lava to this day.
      55. Toph Bei-Fong doesn't go crazy from cactus juice. Cactus juice goes crazy from Toph Bei-Fong.
      56. Those hallucinogenic cacti only exist at all because they sprouted when Toph Bei-Fong's sweat landed in the sand. People hallucinate when they drink it because their minds cannot even begin to process her awesomeness in liquid form.
      57.Toph Bei-Fong vacations at Lake LaoGai.
      58. Azula banished all of the people from the fire nation palace because none of them could ever be as awesome as Toph Bei-Fong.
      59. The reason Firelord Ozai burned Zuko's face off is that he heard his son refused to go on a field trip with Toph Bei-Fong.
      60. There was an episode where Toph Bei-Fong went on a field trip with Zuko. In the test audience there was only one survivor: Toph Bei-Fong.
      61. Toph Bei-Fong is what broke Azula’s mind.
      62. When the lion turtle met Toph Bei-Fong, it cried to be in the presence of such a genius.
      63. The sonic scream portrayed by the Ember Island Players is a true Toph Bei-Fong technique; she just never uses it because if she did the world would explode.
      64. Sozin knew better than to attack the earth kingdom, home of Toph Bei-Fong, during the eclipse. Instead he turned his attention towards the airbenders, and so he lived to a ripe old age and died in bed. Ozai wasn't as smart, and his body has never been found.
      65. Every time you masturbate, Toph Bei-Fong kills a Dai-Li agent. Not because you masturbated; that is just how often she kills a Dai-Li agent.

    • Ahahaha I love Azugle.

    • Evil Midnight Lurker says:

      8a. Toph Bei Fong can ALMOST see Wang Fire.

  36. emily says:

    Aunt Wu: You will be involved in a great battle, an awesome conflict between the forces of good and evil! A battle whose outcome will determine the fate of the whole world!

    Aang: Yeah, yeah, I knew that already. But does it say anything about a girl?

    Love forever <33

  37. MocataJoy says:

    I want to go on and on and on about how awesome this whole experience has been, and how much I love you, Mark, and how you're my internet hero and how sending you a feltie Appa was like the best thing ever and how I'm getting married this Saturday yet I still make time to read this blog EVERY SINGLE DAY and will be reading the Deathly Hallows review on Friday (the day before my wedding.)

    But I do have one question about this Avatar finale, which I'm sure others will ask too.

    Why is Azula "beaten" when she gets chained to that grate?

    I get that she is (obviously) emotionally unbalanced at that point. I get that she has lost control. But…seriously? She is only chained by her hands. She can still bend with her feet, and she can obviously still bend with her mouth, and Zuko and Katara are standing WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE. So why doesn't Azula just kill them (or at least TRY to kill them) with a fire blast? Melt the chains off her own wrists? I mean…really? Azula got chained to a grate by her hands and that's TOO MUCH FOR HER TO HANDLE? With as angry as Azula is at that point, why wouldn't she be even more committed to saying "you'll never beat me!" and freeing herself? I've never been able to buy this ending.

    • FlameRaven says:

      If you watch Azula carefully during the fight, you can see that even before the lightning Zuko is gaining the upper hand. Azula is actually forced to dodge one of his fire blasts, and right after that we see her face: she's completely shocked and a little panicked.

      Azula has never not been completely in control of herself and her situation. First she was losing to her brother (that she was always better than), then he managed to keep her from killing Katara, THEN Katara, a peasant, outmatched her. Yes, she could still firebend at that point, but she's completely broken down and sobbing. She doesn't have the resolve to keep on fighting.

      • MocataJoy says:

        But I don't really think Katara outmatched her. Katara pulled a cool trick with the ice and the chain and all…but when that ice melts, Azula could have easily gone on to best her. I get that Azula is breaking down throughout the course of this fight, but by the time Katara pulls her ice trick, Zuko is already on the ground…so he is beaten (which you'd think would give Azula confidence.)..and she is doing pretty well with Katara until Katara pulls her ice trick. Yet when the ice melts, Azula goes from "I will KILL YOU RIGHT NOW IN EVERY WAY" to "OH NOES I'M TIED UP I GUESS I'M BEATEN."

        • breesquared says:

          It was basically the checkmate. Azula has said previously, she knows when she's beaten. Yes she could still put up a fight, but could she have won? How can she maneuver or dodge attacks if she firebends at them and they retaliate? She's tied up, has no where to go.

          • MocataJoy says:

            I think she could have busted her chains just like she busted her "earth shackles" during the invasion. If she had done that, she could have continued fighting Katara. Zuko, at that point, was a non-issue. He was on the ground and probably would have died without Katara's help. Also, when Azula said that she "knows when she's beaten", that was during "the Chase", and she only said that to distract her opponents long enough to shoot Iroh with lightning. Azula has NEVER been one to stop fighting. Until this scene.

            • breesquared says:

              She didn't win that fight, though. Winning would have involved her acheiving her goal: capturing the Avatar. Striking Iroh was a diversion so that she wouldn't get captured.

              • MocataJoy says:

                She didn't accomplish her goal, but she escaped by being clever. Just as she had several other times. She could have done the same here, or even gone on to win, since she had already eliminated one of her opponents. I think the writers wanted to get her story over with, and they didn't want to kill her, so this is what they came up with. I've always felt it was weak.

                • shirtninjas says:

                  Me too. I've always loved Azula (as a villian… not as a weird Chris Hansen-thing) and I felt that they didn't do justice to her ending. I do like that she kind of went insane, but I feel that it wasn't properly foreshadowed, and I don't like the ending of her fight at all.

                  Also: WHAT THE HELL DOES SHE SAY WHEN SHE'S STANDING ON THAT ROOF?

    • jubilantia says:

      I see what you're saying. However, Azula's power was not her firebending ability but her mental control, her ability to detach herself emotionally. By that point, she had totally lost that control, and was thus unable to gather her powers into the precise strike required to free herself.

      Now, how they are going to keep her imprisoned without also taking away her bending is something I would have liked to see, but I've never had much of a problem with that resolution. We need the mentally healing powers of Guru Pathik, methinks.

      • Hyatt says:

        Y'know, I sort of hope that if Aang does take away Azula's bending, he could make it a temporary block instead of permanent removal. She doesn't deserve to have something else so important to her taken away, but as she is when we last see her, her firebending would just endanger herself and anyone trying to help her.

        • jubilantia says:

          Good point, I hadn't actually thought that far. Especially since bending in and of itself isn't evil, and I think Azula can do just as much damage without firebending as with it, as exhibited in her Ba Sing Se coup. I do hope they can heal her.

          • Hyatt says:

            If Azula recovers enough, I bet she could only benefit from a visit with the Firebending masters. Especially if she feels, like Aang did, that holding the flame was like holding a living heart.

            • brotorious says:

              like holding a living heart.

              considering it's azula, all i can imagine is, "a living heart? I WILL CRUSH IT."

    • simplefaith08 says:

      In my opinion? I think she was just done.
      I mean, Azula's breakdown, to me, basically came from her worldview crumbling in front of her. The fact that someone could love something more than she can be feared, that she isn't seen as a respected individual in the eyes of her father, etc. And so that fight added two more: that someone could be a physical match for her, and that someone could be a intellectual match. Azula prides herself, not only on her combat, but her intelligence and cunning. So not only was she outmatched by her "inferior" brother, she was outwitted by a "mere" peasant.

      It didn't really seem like she was trying to get out, just expressing her anguish. She was totally humiliated. Which makes sense, considering how much the Fire Nation places emphasis on honor.

      *shrug* That's how I saw it, anyway.

  38. MissDirect says:

    I… cannot accept this is over so I really, really don't want to actually say anything about the finale *cries in a corner* but I do have something beautiful to share with all of you that always makes me happy: http://cherryice.livejournal.com/248087.html
    You want more Appa? Here it is.
    (And I'd like to thank Mark and everyone here for making this pretty much the next best thing to watching this show for the first time. I love you all)

  39. Toph13139 says:

    So… Umm… This is a goodbye, then.

    Since I started watching Avatar… It was 2005, and it was a year after my Dad died. It was quite comforting to have something to do to distract myself, so that I didn't have to think about it too much. I was eleven then… Yes. When Avatar began I had, finally, something to do. And it helped me make friends. Literally. I wouldn't have the friends I have now if it weren't because of our first ever conversation, which was about this very show. I won't get tired of saying this. I'll never stop saying it.

    I guess that, since Mark's done watching Avatar, sir, you and I won't be seeing each other in a long time. XD I'll definitely lurk around, I just won't comment as much… I'm not much of a commenter either, you know? Not like you'll miss me, but I'm definitely gonna miss reading your reviews. I'll even start reading Harry Potter, to have an excuse to see more of those later down the road.

    I guess what I'm meaning to say is… See ya later. I'm glad you liked the show. And welcome to the fandom, for the hundredth time. XD

    P.S: Don't know if anyone's told you yet, but you should check AvatarSpirit.net. Nice community, man, seriously.

    • Murph says:

      I'd actually advise Mark to steer clear of ASN. It's full of clowns that can't check their privilege as demonstrated when discussing the racefail casting of the live action movie. That place really showed its ass last year.

      • Hyatt says:

        Oh, right, I was wondering why mentions of ASN left a bad taste in my mouth. IIRC, KataangForever also threw its support behind the movie and shut down criticism of the casting.

  40. H. Torrance Griffin says:

    A comment/thought exercise from avatarspirit.net
    (http://forums.avatarspirit.net/index.php?topic=7971.msg1251841#msg1251841)

    You know what? They pulled it off.

    The writers for Avatar had managed to make a convincing case, via the path of her breakdown, that Azula is indeed a lost little lamb seeking the love/approval of the only parent the does not think rejected her. The fact that said parent is a genocidal EvilOverlord(tm) and she is a multitalented genius who had a mean streak to begin with clearly exacerbates matters, but at least in the post-series timeframe actual redemption without metaphysical assistance is far less of a pipe dream than I thought.

    So let us take the most basic/effective common scenario: Zuko tracks Ursa down within the year, Ursa sees what happened to her babies and pitches in to help the most badly scarred one. Between Ursa, Zuko, and whatever passes for shrinks in the Fire Nation; Azula comes to terms with three things:
    A) Her mother feared for her, she may have on some level feared what she was becoming, but she did indeed love her.
    B) Her father's "approval" is worth about as much as a set of spark-rocks in a firebending academy.
    C) Honest affection and loyalty are quite likely to trump intimidation and manipulation when push comes to shove.

    I'm giving it five to six years on the outside before she is gets her mind around all this and is medically fit to be out in society. Recall how much of her behaviour seems shaped by efforts to emulate her father.

    Now what?

    By any measure Azula is a brilliant woman. In addition, there is at most ten firebenders on the planet who could match her raw talent and learning curve (to put things in perspective, Iroh is not among them).

    On the other hand, she has a lot of problems. She has next to no social skills, while her administrative/leadership style are at odds with the New Order(tm) even if she felt her abilities on that side could be relied on at all. On a related note her self-confidence and trust in her own competence may still be a bit shakey for some time. She has no job or outlet worth the name waiting for her, she is too tied to Ozai's regime even if Zuko was willing to trust her in a position of real authority. Even on the 'marry her off' front her psyche history and background is likely to mark her as anything from "Damaged Goods" to a subtle political insult to a family she is offered to.

    In short, if/when Azula gets her head together what in the world _can_ she do? The empty parade watching thing is part of what drove her over the edge to begin with….

    • FlameRaven says:

      Mm, it could well take more than five to six years, Azula is really broken.

      However, assuming she eventually gets it together… I'd say a special ops/assassin position. Legal or otherwise. She can't govern and she's terrible at social skills, so someplace where she could use her combat expertise but aim it in a very specific direction would be ideal.

    • Hyatt says:

      I like to think of Azula as one of Zuko's most trusted advisers, specifically for her ruthless style. He might not follow her advice often, but he wants it said, and said by her.

  41. Albion19 says:

    My favourite scene was the fight between Zuko and Azula.

    Zuko taking a lighting bolt to the chest to protect Katara was magical lol

  42. lastyearswishes says:

    I am not ashamed to admit that I cry every time I watch part 4 when Zuko is crowned Fire Lord. EVERY TIME. I'm just so proud of him lol. He's my favorite character, I can't help it, okay. ;-;

    I will forever be terrified by the image of a broken, powerless Azula, wailing as her now-healed brother and Katara look upon her. Thinking back on this entire series, she has the most depressing and tragic character arc, but I appreciate that the writers did not make her defeat a simple act of victory. As awful as Azula has been…I just feel sorry for her.
    THIS FOREVER OMG. I know she's pure evil but, damn, he ending is just SAD.

    I love this finale SO MUCH, it's so epic and emotional and ;;sdkfd;flk;gk UGH I LOVE IT FOREVER and I'm SO HAPPY that you've enjoyed this show too. o/

    As sad as I am that you're finished with Avatar, I must admit that I'm super excited for you to start Battlestar Galactica next week. I can't wait to rewatch that show with you. :')

  43. bookgal12 says:

    I was happy when I heard that you were watching Avatar The Last Airebender, Mark. I had watched the series when I was around 16 but I never got into it until my friends got me to watch it again a year ago. This series offers so much for viewers especially those like me who are slightly older and it gives us perspective on how we go through changes much like the characters in the show do. I was blown away by the strong, complex characters featured on the show and how they weren't barred from being bad-ass if they were female or old or disabled. I liked the humor and how it ranged from simple jokes a seven year old would laugh at to haiku jokes. Then there is the animation which was a feast for the eyes to see all the colors used in bending and how it was reflected in the nations.

    The aspect that continues to draw me in to keep watching the series is the music, the music much like the characters evolves throughout the series. Once a melody is played, you can sometimes hear it again in the background and it triggers a memory. The electic music makes me fall into the world of ATLA if just for a little while. To this day, I can't help but tear up whenever I hear Iroh's song. It takes a lot for me to tear up over anything fictional, and when I heard the deep sadness in Iroh's voice as he sung to the memory of his dead son, I lost it. I also cried at the very end when I saw that all the hurt and loss Team Avatar fought for was worth it. I am so glad I was able to rewatch and experience this show to its full potential. Thanks Mark, and other commentors! I'll see you when you start BSG!

  44. Ooze33 says:

    Are you still planning on watching the *horrible* live-action movie?

    Also, I can finally post my video tribute to Avatar. Yay!

    [youtube 2IrAesklw4c http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IrAesklw4c youtube]

  45. shirtninjas says:

    I wasn't really bothered by energybending, although I wish it had a better name. It's completely in keeping with the asian-inspired style of the show (chakras, chi attacks, etc.) and I never thought that it felt too much like a DEM… I can see how people wouldn't like it for that reason, but just my personal take on the show, I didn't think it was that bad.

    The thing I though wasn't finished well at the end of the series was Azula. I'm glad she was defeated. I am. I even really love the scene with her and Zuko and Katara. I just don't like the way it happened. Why can't she keep attacking? Sure, her hands are chained down, but she can still shoot fire from her feet and her mouth, and I refuse to believe AZULA of all people isn't crafty enough to somehow break that chain off. They didn't stop her. They just confined her to one spot, and SOZIN'S COMET is STILL THERE. Also, Zuko was DOWN at that point. He wasn't about to keep fighting her in the state he was in.

    • MocataJoy says:

      HAH. My dear roommate! Great minds think alike and live together! (Read my comment above.)

  46. BardChild says:

    Eff, the fandom.

    ENEGRYBENDING IS FUCKING AWESOME. AANG ISN'T A MURDERER. ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD

    but seriously I can't fathom how much I love this series. THIS IS WHY I LOVE MAKING OCs FOR THIS UNIVERSE!!!

  47. BardChild says:

    I will also say that I am seriously not comfortable with the writers punishing Azula by sending her to an institution.

    • echinodermata says:

      Don't view it as a punishment? I would argue she suffers from childhood abuse just like Zuko does, and needs help. Basically everyone could probably do with some therapy, but given that Azula's world just crashed around her, I don't see it as a punishment that she gets the help she needs.

      • BardChild says:

        How should I not view it as punishment, when it pretty obvious that if felt like it was suppose to be one? My issue isn't that she is in an institution but it's written like it's suppose to be "punishment".

        Pysch wards shouldn't be synonymous with prison.

        • echinodermata says:

          So the institution thing I'm hearing about is second-hand, and it looks like elsewhere in the thread it's the framing on the "supersite" that you object to – can you link/explain how this info was presented?

          • BardChild says:

            There was an Avatar Supersite on Nick.com. Which had a lot of behind the scenes info. At the info page for the very last episode, it mentioned on the same line that Ozai was sent to a prison and Azula to institution.

            God I wish the supersite was still around. God maybe I should shut up

            • echinodermata says:

              Ah, okay. I'm not casting judgement without seeing the write-up myself, but I better understand your point, and your parent comment wasn't clear about the framing being the issue, so that makes me happier since I originally thought you were basically doing what you say the write-up did in conflating the two. And now I see that's what you object to in the first place, so I think we're all cool.

              (And I'll thanks here for your reply in the other thread.)

              • BardChild says:

                Glad we're cool, I maybe a jerk sometimes,

                BUT NO ALL THE TIME.

                <.< Maybe it's because I've been in the fandom for too long god…6 YEARS OH MY GOD

    • Shay_Guy says:

      Punishing?

    • breesquared says:

      She is damaged, emotionally, and socially. She's lived in an environment of abuse, and while she was able to manipulate situations to her advantage, she should have never needed to. I think rehabilitation is a BENEFIT to her. Zuko was lucky enough to have outlets to rely on during his abuse; Azula lacked that.

      • BardChild says:

        Honestly with they way they wrote it in the supersite, they made it synonymous with "Prison" not "hospital"

        I am not saying she should get help, I am just staying the painted insitutionalization as punishment not as medicine.

        • breesquared says:

          If that's how it was framed then that sucks…

          • BardChild says:

            I am sorry if I wasn't clear. I didn't like how they made it seem like it was punishment. Not that she shouldn't be institutionalized.

            • Hyatt says:

              Was it from a site written by Nickelodeon? They kinda fail at understanding Avatar. They would interpret it as punishment even when the creators clearly state that Azula's getting a chance to heal.

        • Embies says:

          This is what the creators had to say about Azula in an interview (sorry, I don't know the tags for italics and stuff).

          "Is Azula really as evil as she seems? Or is there more to her?

          Mike: As all the Avatar character, even Azula has a softer side, though it's buried very deep. As "The Beach" and "Sozin's Comet" showed she has a lot of unresolved issues with her mother. She really feels her mother didn't love her as much as Zuko, and this drives her crazy, literally.

          Bryan: There are obviously truly evil people in the world, but in the case of Azula, her repressed emotions and jealousies corroded her spirit and made her become that way. It is possible that she could turned out better in a healthier environment, but growing up in royal family of nation seeking world domination proved to exacerbate her problems. But Zuko and Katara spared her life, and who knows she might have a chance to heal."

          They talk about healing, not punishing.

          • BardChild says:

            Fair enough, It's been a while. I thought they were pulling a worn old misconception.

            Thanks for the clarity

    • Lariren says:

      Is that even canon? It appears on her Avatar wiki page but its kind of one of the lose ends. I'm not sure its punishment even. Punishment would be locking her in a prison. The implication of sending Azula somewhere is that someone (probably Zuko) cares enough to want to help her. Whether or not she sees it as a punishment is a different matter.

      • BardChild says:

        I remember it from the supersite that it was written like she was thrown into there. It felt like it was borrowing the old writting trope "Nut-house=Prison for crazies" than a place of medicine. Nothing indicated that Zuko was worried about her. If someone could maybe find the supersite article and prove me wrong I would love that.

        • Lariren says:

          I'm entirely guessing Zuko because he would be the one in charge of making the decisions about what to do with people at the end. Plus in my headcanon Zuko realizes he's not the only one damaged by Ozai and wants to help his little sister.

          I will conceed that there is no way of knowing what kind of mental facility she's put in and if its more like modern one or like the older ones which were bad.

      • Korosh says:

        It was on Old Nick site before the update. Old Nick site mentioned Azula shipped off to a mental health facility to a nearby island where she is supervised around the clock. The site didn't mention instituionalization. Also, it had a lot of information about the show.Supervision of patients is treatment and care. Any paranoid or insecure person will see treatment and help as punishment or a bad thing but with time he/she may change this view.

        • Lariren says:

          Fair enough, I could see Azula thinking it would be punishment.

          • Hyatt says:

            If she does, that's why she needs her mother and Ty Lee (who totally will forgive her and sincerely want her to get better so they can be real friends) to be there as much as possible.

    • Tauriel_ says:

      And what would you prefer? That they let her loose on the world? In the state she's in? She needs help, man.

      • Bard Child says:

        I am not saying she doesn't

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Then what's your problem with her being taken to a facility where she can get proper help and treatment, in a safe environment where she won't be a danger to either herself nor anyone else?

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Then what's your problem with her being taken to a facility where she can get proper help and treatment, in a safe environment where she won't be a danger to either herself nor anyone else?

          Zuko didn't just chuck her into prison.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Then what's your problem with her being taken to a facility where she can get proper help and treatment, in a safe environment where she won't be a danger to either herself or anyone else?

          Zuko didn't just chuck her into prison.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Then what's your problem with her being taken to a facility where she can get proper help and treatment, in a safe environment where she won't be a danger to either herself or anyone else?

          Zuko didn't just chuck her into prison.

    • H. Torrance Griffin says:

      Given that she had what could honestly be called a full-blown nervous breakdown, where were they supposed to put her? Not to mention Mike&Bryan explicitly stating it was not a punishment…

  48. Shay_Guy says:

    Gah. Can't believe I missed 3:00. OK, so here's the second half of what I prepared for the Sozin's Comet post(s):

    Pity Azula doesn't know any hairstyles that don't require servants. Though she probably wouldn't have the insight to realize that even a ponytail would look more royal than the whatsit she makes.

    "WHO DISRUPTS MY CORONATION?!"
    "Coronation, Azula? This is bad comedy!"

    The three most important things to remember when watching the last Angi Kai:
    1) These two people are fighting what could very well be a duel to the death.
    2) They are brother and sister.
    3) They are sixteen and fourteen.

    Ah…energybending. Few elements of Avatar have caused more arguments. Some would go so far as to say that it was a complete deus ex machina in that it had no foreshadowing at all. I beg to differ:
    "The greatest illusion of this world is the illusion of separation. Things you think are separate and different are actually one and the same."
    "Like the four nations."
    "Yes. We are all one people, but we live as if divided."
    "We're all connected. Everything is connected."
    "That's right. Even the separation of the four elements is an illusion. If you open your mind, you will see that all the elements are one. Four parts of the same whole."
    Storytelling tidbit: If people think they've seen the full significance of something (e.g., a setup for metalbending), they rarely try to find further significance.

    Toph gets the last word. Of course. And… THE END.

    Dakara kakko tsuke nai de
    Motto jibun wo shinji te
    Sono yume wo oikake
    LOVE AND ROCK, LOVE AND ROCK, PEACE!

    Minna no PEACE, IT'S ALRIGHT!
    LOVE AND ROCK, notte OK!
    Minna de utau, SONG FOR YOU!
    LOVE AND PEACE, ROCK MY SONG!
    (Woo!) Minna no PEACE, IT'S ALRIGHT!
    LOVE AND ROCK, notte OK! (Yeah!)
    Minna de utau, SONG FOR YOU!
    LOVE AND PEACE, ROCK MY SONG!

    • Hokuto says:

      GOD I LOVE THAT SONG SO SO SO MUCH ;o; I keep trying to apply it to Naruto in my head and then having ALL THE TEARS because that series gives me endless feelings.

    • Patrick721 says:

      All the upvotes for the Transformers movie reference. Not the Bay abominations. The GLORIOUSLY 80S MOVIE, THAT IS THE GREATEST TRANSFORMERS RELATED THING EVER (BESIDES BEAST WARS)…I wish I knew how to make videos with footage from stuff. Because I need a video of stuff from Avatar synced up to THE TOUCH.

  49. RomioneRawr says:

    Mark, now that you're done with Avatar, I want to recommend this fansite to you: http://www.avatarspiritmedia.net/

    There's new and really fun forums for Avatar fans πŸ˜€

  50. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    SO NOW I CAN BUY THE BOOK OF ARTWORK

    EXCITED

  51. Korosh says:

    Ozai was reponsible for what happened to Azula, Ursa and Zuko. He was the reason Azula thought her mother didn't love her.Working for parents who love their children conditionally is working for nothing. The attention and validation Ozai gave to Azula was because of her talents only while Ursa loved her unconditionally. Hopefully, someday Azula can reconcile with her family, friends and team Avatar.

    Mike and Bryan explained why Azula became evil in Sozin's Comet book interview on page 63. Here what they said:
    "Is Azula really as evil as she seems ? Or is there more to her?

    Mike: As with all the Avatar characters , even Azula has a softer side , though it's buried very deep. As the Beach and Sozin's Comet showed ,she has a lot of unresolved issues with her mother . She really feels that her mother did not love her as much as Zuko , and this drives her crazy , literally.

    Bryan: There are obviously some truly evil people in the world , but in the case of Azula , her repressed emotions and jealousies corroded her spirit , and made her become that way. It is possible that she could turned out better in a healthier environment, but growing in a royal family of a nation seeking world domination proved to exacerbate her problems . But Zuko and Katara spared her life and who knows she might have a chance to heal.”

  52. alexamarie0813 says:

    oh, mark. i'll miss these so much.
    but thank you for giving this show a chance–it's really easy to dismiss avatar as a silly cartoon on a kid's channel with cheap jokes and boring plots. you've helped me rediscover this show and why i love it so much.
    but oh god, this finale is so perfect. the best part has to be the music. the song played during zuko and azula's agni kai is so amazing and emotional. two siblings fighting to the death. it's both sad and exhilarating all at once, and that song conveys it all perfectly.
    and also HNNNNNNNNNNG KATARA AND AANG SMOOCHIN' ON THE BALCONY <333
    sorry, i'm a child.

  53. jubilantia says:

    OH THE LOVE I HAVE FOR THIS SERIES IT IS TOO GREAT

    FOR THE SHIPPERS OF ALL STRIPES: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiUtbcpjd8A
    –>official silliness from the creators

    I'm so ridiculously excited that you love it as much as we do. I think there are few finales that manage to be immensely satisfying AND happy at the same time. I thought from the very beginning that Uncle would die protecting someone, because that's just what happens to older mentor characters, but I was ecstatic to be proven wrong.

    I just… you've pretty much said everything I thought. I went through the same cycle of feelings about Azula, and was just as pissed off that they left us hanging about Azula's mom. I mean, the story was there. I wonder if they just ran out of time.

    However, I do wonder what happened to her, and Ozai for that matter- are there psychiatrists in Avatar Land? Where is Guru Pathik when you need him? It was interesting, though, how they showed that non-benders can function without being able to bend, but if you have grown up being able to bend, then it disorients you when you lose it. Small details that would seem obvious make it that much more real.

    And the action sequences! So well done. All I could do was sit there with a manic (if worried) grin on my face, squealing in glee or trepidation as each new awesomely unbelievable thing happened. I love the bond the characters formed, and how well their teamwork exhibited that. And Katara really was ingenious, wasn't she? I aspire to be so resourceful. And Sokka–! And Toph–! And Suki–! Andandandnand SO AWESOME.

    Man, now I have to go watch it again. I am now even more excited for Legend of Korra. Is it time yet?

  54. BardChild says:

    LAST COMMENT I PROMISE.

    I WANT TO SEE AZULA AND OZAI REDEEM THEMSELVES!! THAT WOULD MAKE MY DAY

    • misterbernie says:

      Azula I could see redeeming herself, but how the hell could Ozai do that?

      "Fire Lord Ozai was a ruthless conqueror bent on subjugating and, failing that, utterly destroying the peoples of the Earth Kingdom and the Water Tribes. In his retirement, he planted community vegetable gardens and read to sick children all across the world."

      • Bard Child says:

        Why Azula redeeming herself and not Ozai? Is it because he is so flat in character development or is because your more sympathetic to her than him?

        • misterbernie says:

          Well, both; maybe if we had seen more about how his upbringing shaped him, I could feel more sympathetic to him, but as it stands, he's done too much capital-e-evil and been too much "yay let's BURN IT WITH FIRE" for me to see a way he could redeem himself.

          • Bard Child says:

            I would like to see the redemption of Ozai to help reshape his character personally, It's ashamed that they made him so flat.

  55. hungriestgame says:

    All of the emotions. Dear Mark: you are totally great. Thank you for doing what you do. The next best thing to getting to watch this show for the first time is getting to watch you watch it for the first time. More emotions. ILU

    Also, have fun at Leaky. πŸ™‚

  56. Emily2 says:

    Mark, I'm one of the people who said I would buy your e-books, but I'm waiting until the Harry Potter ones start coming out because the Twilight ones are just too angry to be fun for me (though I know other people really like them.)

    P.S. It'd be interesting to see you review something you could hate enough to make fun of a lot but not something that would inspire constant rage. Maybe something goofy like Star Trek: The Original Series or The DaVinci Code.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      I actually like Star Trek a lot! I don't think I would write hateful things at all. I'm watch The Next Generation with my roommate since all the seasons are now on Netflix Instant, and it has held up surprisingly well.

      I totally get not wanting to read HATE HATE HATE. It should be about a month or so before I get to HP, and I am MOST EXCITED about it!

      • Emily2 says:

        I love Star Trek too, but you've got to MST3K it a little, right? I think Next Generation stands up a bit better than the Original Series, but I love it anyway.

        I'm looking forward to the Harry Potter e-books.

  57. Pelleloguin says:

    I liked energybending. *Dodges all the stuff now being thrown* I do. This show was still aired on Nick, and we already had two secondary characters die (Zhao and Jet) and there were quite a bit of implied deaths, I knew that Aang would never kill Ozai. And I was ok with that because it fit his lighthearted character just fine. Instead of him fighting until the comet passes and earth-cuffing him or something though, Aang removes his bending. At the risk of his own, and if Aang lost his bending we all know Ozai would have killed him and possibly ended the Avatar cycle and went on his merry genocidal way.

    Maybe it's because I watched the episode with the Sun Warriors going "So if you learned from a dragon, then you needed to be predisposed to bending somehow beforehand to have the ability. So what did you bend?" I came up with spirit, you bended your own energy in order to learn how to bend another energy. Clearly, not many people go that deep into things, or if they do, they want established show canon to back it up, so I do agree that some more hints and foreshadowing would have helped the move feel less like a cop out to some.

    As for Azula, I don't think we need to forgive her. I pity her and what she became in then end, but I am not going to forgive her actions. (If I were in the show, that is.) But I think this helps understand her behavior and actions, and healing comes with understanding. We know that she was probably always unstable from an early age, seeking ways to use fear to control the world around her because she did not know how to deal with things she had no power over. She goes to extremes to keep that power, and when she lost it, she loses the mask she was hiding behind and we see the person she really is, an unstable, scared, teenager who can not cope with the world around her. I think the writers did a great job taking a character we see as pure evil and turning her into someone we can feel sorry for.

    And Mark, I look forward to future projects and as soon as I can afford my Kindle I am getting those Ebooks. This has been an awesome summer, and I look forwards to Korra, where we all shall be unprepared for all of the shit that shall get real. And it will be wonderful.

    • jubilantia says:

      I like energy bending, too. I think people forget that at the end of the day, it is still a kids' show. Also, I don't think it was a cop-out because the stakes were still plenty high enough. ("merry genocidal way" heh) Just because it was a spiritual battle rather than a physical one doesn't make it any less difficult, and the scenes were a satisfyingly epic conclusion to the main plot.

      Haters to the left, I guess.

  58. tigerpetals says:

    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4110956/1/I_Adore_the

    "There's a terrible sort of sense in the general pain of hating blood family – because life goes backwards and is never satisfied with just a heart.

    And forever is only a lifetime." An Azula oneshot set in The Avatar State.
    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4834864/1/Heart_of_Fi… First in a trilogy in which Azula is on a redemptive path. I haven't actually read this yet, but it was recommended a few times on Television Without Pity.
    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3952682/1/Spirals_Beg… The very first Avatar: a fairytale.
    http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6360866/1/ The Problem With Zuko Lu Ten never dies and captures Aang.

  59. Elexus Calcearius says:

    Thank you, Mark, for going through this series with us. It was such a wonderful way to see the series in a new light, and re-live the joy of watching for the first time. I'm so glad that you loved it, and that there will be such an amazing community to experience Korra with.

    In a related story, last night I was with some collegues from work, and we began talking about cartoons, and how the ones from the past were so much better than today's. Then someone said, "Has anyone watching 'Avatar: the Last Airbender'. We all had, we all agreed that it was amazing, and that M. Night tainted its name. Squee fest ensued when a couple of us mentioned Korra.

    (In conclusion; my new job rocks. :b )

  60. simplefaith08 says:

    I was so satisfied by the finale, I can't even. I don't even care if "energy-bending" came out of nowhere (maybe I'm just weird, but the concept didn't seem all that odd to me? Like, the Avatar is essentially a physical god/spiritual police force, the idea that he or she could take away someone's bending worked for me). *shrug*

    But really, I'm mostly glad that Aang didn't kill the fire lord. I couldn't really verbally express why when I first saw the show, but when I was watching with my mother, she spelled it out: That killing Ozai is exactly what he would have wanted. I mean, as a plan B sort of situation. To be so great that only the Avatar could put him down, to be written down in history as the man who tried to stand up to the avatar and fought valiantly. Basically, it would inflate his sense of self-importance even after he died. What Ozai needed was to be knocked down a couple of pegs: "Don't get it twisted, you're a man, not a god." For someone like Ozai, that would kill him…er, figuratively. ;D (My mother also admitted that she didn't want Aang to kill anyone because she liked Aang so much and "he's only 12!" Ah, mom)

    It did bug me, however, that the fandom's problem didn't seem to be the fact that it came out of nowhere so much as "OMG he didn't kill him Aang is so weak and why isn't this grimdark". My issues with fandom; I'd show them too you, but we'd be here all day. xP

    Now, two of the scenes I couldn't mention in the other post because it they would be spoilers both have to do with Azula's breakdown. I never thought that I'd feel sympathy for Azula, but that hallucination did it for me. I mean, regularly, when a villain uses fear instead of love and trust, and they end up utterly alone, most shows go "Show's 'em right!" Not Avatar. It's so sad watching Azula so damn alone that she hallucinates her missing mother so that someone can tell her they love her. I'm not in the camp that Ursa was negligent to Azula in favor of Zuko, but I do think that the fact that Ursa didn't constantly tell her how awesome she was or openly fear her made Azula think Ursa didn't love her, because Azula's knowledge of love has been shaped to be so incredibly limited. It's just so…sad. And then the other scene, where she and Zuko have an Agni Kai, and this really sad music plays rather than big, epic fanfare, just to show that despite all of Azula's anger and contempt, this is a sad battle and it's not right for siblings to fight like this…is just amazing.

    And I already said this in the liveblog, but the animation is so amazing. It's just…wow. I want to hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

    All and all, thank you Mark, for sharing this. It's like watching the show for the first time all over again. πŸ™‚

    • Hyatt says:

      I was so satisfied by the finale, I can't even. I don't even care if "energy-bending" came out of nowhere (maybe I'm just weird, but the concept didn't seem all that odd to me? Like, the Avatar is essentially a physical god/spiritual police force, the idea that he or she could take away someone's bending worked for me).

      Same here, though I also like to think that it's meant as set-up for recreating the Air Nomads. Aang by himself can't father enough kids to repopulate an entire nation, but if he could give airbending to people who had the spirit like the refugees at the Northern Air Temple…

      Also, "the time before the Avatar"! Tantalizing hints about the first Avatar and why the Avatar was created!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Thank you for reading and for this wonderful comment. <3

  61. Michelle says:

    I'm going to leave a long comment in a pile of other long comments because I have so many feelings about this show and I JUST WANT TALK ABOUT THEM EVEN I DON'T EVEN GO HERE. Also I apologize for how alskdflkajsd my words probably are, I'm kind of hungover~

    I picked up Avatar completely on a whim when I was going through one of the absolute shittiest times in my life. I needed something to distract me. It was around the end of the second season so I downloaded all the episodes that were available and marathoned the shit out of them. Before that I had only seen the stray first season episode here or there, so I was utterly unprepared for and blown away by the care, the love, the detail, and the depth of the show. (I adore animation so I don't write things off because they're animated, but I know other people do, and I definitely wasn't expecting this show to be as amazing as it is.)

    Since then I've watched every episode multiple times and I rec it to everybody with the passion of a thousand suns until they watch it. It's transformative. I know that sounds so cheesy and like… basically I am tearbending Katara here, but what this show does for American animation, for storytelling, and just for the people who watch it… no words.

    When the finale came out, a lot of people in fandom were upset that Aang didn't have to kill Ozai. They thought energybending was an ass pull. Here are my thoughts on this and why I love so much that Aang did not kill Ozai:

    I am a bleeding heart pacifist vegetarian hippy. I love the fact that there is a character like Aang, a little bald vegetarian monk, who is the main character of an action series. I love that we are shown a character who can do all these amazing things but he doesn't want to hurt any living thing and he struggles with that all the time. That's fucking amazing to me. In media heroes who kill and destroy in "badass" fashion are a dime a dozen. A hero who says, I have a job to do, and there's the "easy" way that anybody else would do and thinks I should do, but I don't want to do it that way, so I am going to find another way.

    What I take away from this is that if there is another way to solve a problem, you should use it. That's a powerful, powerful statement, and I love it.

    There's also this idea that Aang just randomly got energybending and it wasn't one of the things he worked for, so that makes it an unsatisfying end to things. I respectfully disagree. The lion turtle talks about how dangerous it is. (I believe Word of God has it that Aang is not the first Avatar to learn energybending, but he's one of the very few who've ever used it, because it's so dangerous.) He says that in order to do it, you must be uncorruptable yourself. Aang wouldn't have been able to do it without this journey that we watched him go on for three seasons. The suffering, the defeats, the grief, the frustration, the hard work, the struggle–that was important. It all mattered. Aang needed that. He needed it to be able to stand up to Ozai. He needed it to bring Ozai into submission. He needed it to be firm in his resolve. He needed it to regain control of himself even in the Avatar State. And he needed it in order not to be destroyed by the energybending.

    (Relatedly, I absolutely ADORE Aang's talk with Kyoshi. He tries to rationalize Chin's death in order to justify his own need not to kill Ozai, and Kyoshi shuts him right down. I hate the "Disney Villain Death" convention, this idea that it's okay for people to die because they're bad and well I didn't exactly MEAN for them to fall anyway so whatever, you know? So I love love loved that part of the finale. YOU KNOW, AND THE REST OF IT.)

    Anyway I have all the feelings in the world about this show and the finale in particular but that's the most important one to me so I will leave it at that and I am probably repeating something someone else already said so sorry for that~

  62. Jay Gatsby says:

    "I'm so full of hope that it's making me tear-bend!"

  63. Hyatt says:

    In lieu of thoughts, I bring you the original plot outline for the series. From an anonymous poster at 4chan's /co/:

    "1st Season – Winter

    The series begins on the South Pole during winter. It is here where Katara and her brother Sokka discover an Airbender boy (Aang) and his giant bison (Appa) inside an iceberg. Although Aang denies to Katara that he is the Avatar, she soon learns the truth when a young Firebender named Prince Zuko attacks the Southern Water Tribe, looking for the Airbender. In his first act of heroism, Aang surrenders to Zuko in exchange for the tribe's safety. But with the help of Katara, Sokka and his flying bison Appa, Aang escapes Zuko's war ship. Katara and Sokka decide to help Aang get to the North Pole so that he can find a master Waterbender from whom he can learn Waterbending – the first step to becoming the Avatar.

    Of course, Aang isn't in any rush to take on his Avatar responsibilities, so the kids stop at many fun and exciting villages and cities on the way. The first stop is at Aang's childhood home, the Airbender Temple. There, Aang makes first contact with Avatar Roku – Aang's previous incarnation and a mentor who will help him on his Avatar journey. He also befreinds a winged lemur – once a traditional Airbender pet. To Aang, Momo is a sign of hope that, somewhere in the world, his people are still alive.

    As word spreads around the world that the Avatar has returned, the kids act more cautiously, sometimes disguising Aang. And with Zuko on their trail, the longer they stay in one place, the more likely it is that he will find them. The kids begin to learn whom they can trust – and whom they can't.

    Aang's search for an Avatar mentor leads him to the Spirit World. During the Winter Solstice, Aang crosses over into the Spirit World and makes contact again with his previous incarnation, Avatar Roku. Roku reveals to Aang that a powerful comet is passing over the Earth at the end of the summer – and that the Fire Lord and his troops will harness this power to win the war. Aang now faces the daunting task of not only mastering the four elements but doing so before the end of the summer.

    With time running short, Aang buckles down and begins to learn Waterbending alongside Katara. But Aang is unfocused and undisciplined and would rather play than practice. When Katara discovers an ancient scroll with the Waterbending lyrics (moves) illustrated on it, she believes that they have found a quick and easy way of learning Waterbending without having to find a master in the North Pole. However, after a series of mishaps, she realizes that you can't learn from a "book," but that you need the wisdom and guidance of a teacher.

    Their journey North reaches a crisis point when Katara and Sokka learn Aang's secret – fearing his Avatar responsibilities, he ran away from the Air Temple; and that this irresponsible act led to Aang being encased in ice for 100 years. Katara is furious with Aang; she believes that if Aang had not run away, then the war never would have started and her mother would still be alive. In an effort to prove to Katara that he's now taking his Avatar responsibilities seriously, Aang tries Firebending before he's ready and accidentally burns Katara's hands. Aang feels guilty and vows never to Firebend again.

    Meanwhile, Sokka is fed up with Aang's irresponsibility and thinks that Aang doesn't have what it takes to become the Avatar. Sokka believes it's up to warriors like him to put an end to this war. When he finds evidence of the men of his tribe he sets off to find them, ultimately joining a small unit of Earth Nation warriors. After tasting his first real battle, Sokka's romantic ideal of the warrior life is shattered. However, he begins to learn that his true destiny is as a leader. Meanwhile, Aang and Katara reconcile and Katara learns about her healing abilities – a skill closely associated with Waterbending. Aang promises to Katara that he will not make the same mistake twice – he won't run away from his responsibilities and commits to getting to the North Pole.

    With Zuko close on their trail, the kids finally arrive at the North Pole and find a master Waterbender to teach Aang. But because of the Nothern Water Tribe's sexist culture, the master refuses to apprentice Katara – and her life long dream of becoming a Waterbender is in jeopardy. Aang exhaustively trains with the old Waterbender who proves to be a tough disciplinarian. Because Waterbending doesn't come to him easily, Aang and the old Waterbender get frustrated with each other and abandon the lessons. The old Waterbender considers the unfocused Aang "impossible to teach." When Katara finds out Aang's lessons have stopped, she confronts the teacher and demands that he teach Aang – the future of the world is at stake. When the old Waterbender refuses, she challenges him to a fight and demonstrates her Waterbending abilities. Th old man not only accepts Aang back as his student, but her as well.

    cont.

    • Hyatt says:

      Winter culminates in a Fire Navy assault against the Nothern Water Tribe. Led by Zuko's nemesis, Commander Zhao, the Fire Navy surrounds the North Pole with dozens of ships, intent on capturing the Avatar before he learns Waterbending. After a dramatic fight with Zuko, in which Aang spares Zuko's life, Aang joins the tribe for a decisive battle. With Katara and the old Waterbender's help, Aang creates a water tornado that drives the ships into the ice, immobilizing them. The remaining ships retreat. Collectively, Sokka, Katara and Aang's heroism save the Northern Water Tribe.

      The battle nearly kills the old Waterbender. On his deathbed, he tells Katara that she alone possesses the knowledge to complete Aang's Waterbending training. With his newfound determination, Aang decides to continue into the Earth Kingdom and learn Earthbending. Instead of returning to the South Pole to save her tribe, Katara leaves with Aang to teach him Waterbending, knowing that without the Avatar no nation will survive another year. Sokka also resolves to continue the mission, vowing to protect them using his new warrior skills. But will Katara really transform the undisciplined Aang into the one person powerful enough to stop the world's most destructive force?"

      "2nd Season – Spring

      Throughout the spring, Aang, Katara, Sokka and Momo journey through the unfamiliar Earth Kingdom mainland, a vast continent full of natural wonders and fantastical creatures. Zuko, Prince Azul and the rogue Earthbender [I have no idea who this is and there aren't any notes on him in other parts of the bible that I could find] continue their separate persuits, each hoping to capture the Avatar and win Fire Lord Ozai's favor.

      Aang's search for an Earthbender leads him to Toph, a young, blind Earthbender whose arrogance equals his powers. Katara is immediately drawn to his confidence and sparks fly between the two teenagers. Aang's jealousy of Toph causes him to compete for Katara's attention. Aang trains more seriously, hoping to impress her. Sokka also disapproves of his sister's relationship with Toph. He doesn't trust the Earthbender and believes Katara's attraction results from her sympathy for his blindness. In addition, Sokka resents Toph for taking away from him the group's leadership position. For the first time, Sokka and Aang agree absolutely; they both want Toph out of Katara's life. Without intending to, they begin to adopt each other's traits in order to bring Toph's huge ego down to size.

      Early in the season, Zuko captures Aang's bison alive and gives it to this father as a gift. Unable to fly, the group relies on Katara's Waterbending to propel their raft down the Earth Kingdom's many rivers. They travel south toward the Earth Kingdom's last stronghold in the capital city. There, they meet the Emperor, a proud man who refuses to give in to the Fire Nation. When he meets Aang, the Emperor imparts his covert plan to invade the Fire Nation so that the Avatar may help his men in battle. The Emperor makes Aang promise not to reveal the mission to anyone.

      Dying to tell the secret, Aang uses his trickster logic to invent a series of riddles so his friends can guess their mission. As Aang leads the group further south, Katara finally solves the riddle, absolving Aang from his promise to the Emperor. By spring's end, the kids arrive at a huge, hidden camp where the Earth Kingdom forces prepare for a counterattack against the Fire Nation. Katara and Sokka reunite with their father and other tribesmen who have been working with the Earth Navy to construct giant battle ships for the invasion.

      Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph sail with the Water Tribe on the day of Black Sun. During the total eclipse, the Firebenders loose their ability to conjure flames and the Earth Kingdom ships ambush their shores, hoping to infiltrate and begin their march on the Fire Nation capital. Sokka's father asks his son to fight with him. However, Sokka sacrifices his dream in order to stay with Aang. Sokka now believes Aang will fulfill his destiny as the Avatar and defeat Fire Lord Ozai. Sokka assumes responsibility for Aang's mission and resolves to deliver Aang safely to his final duel. As the Earth Kingdom continues its assault on the Fire Nation, the kids enter enemy territory, embarking on the final, and most dangerous leg of their journey."

      cont.

      • Hyatt says:

        "3rd Season – Summer

        Summer marks the impending arrival of a comet that will empower Firebenders with strength enough to decimate the Earth Army, ending the war. As the troops continue to fight toward the enemy's capital, Aang, Katara, Sokka and Toph make their way through the Fire Nation, a hot, barren land full of active volcanoes, searching for a Fire Master willing to teach Aang Firebending.

        Having traveled for several years, Prince Zuko returns to his homeland to find his people enslaved and living in poverty. Outraged that his father has committed such heinous crimes in the name of the war, Zuko once again speaks out against the Fire Lord, this time vowing to take his throne and save the Fire Nation from ruin. In retaliation, Fire Lord Ozai deploys a team of his most deadly Firebenders to capture his son. Zuko grows his hair and takes refuge in a small village, living amongst his people for the first time in his life.

        Along their journey, the kids enter the village and encounter Zuko, who asks for their help in defeating the Fire Lord. Convinced Zuko has set a trap for Aang, Sokka refuses his assistance. On the other hand, Katara perceives genuine change in Zuko and wants to use him as a guide through the Fire Nation. With no other options, Aang agrees to help Zuko in exchange for Firebending instruction. The kids cautiously accept Zuko into their group.

        For weeks, they move through the country, hiding in caves and seeking refuge in villages. All the while, Zuko trains Aang in Firebending. However, Aang's fear of fire prevents him from controlling the volatile element, for he still feels guilt over burning Katara. Furthermore, once Zuko fights his Uncle, the Prince learns that his former teacher was under his father's orders to teach him incorrect Firebending. Under the tutelage of Zuko's flawed magic, Aang cannot obtain the skills needed to defeat the Fire Lord. Aang realizes he won't master the final stage of the Avatar's magic before the comet arrives. The group decides to put off attacking Ozai until after the comet passes, but Aang understands the dangers of waiting. By then, the Fire Lord will join his Army's frontlines and use his heightened powers to decimate the Earth Army. Facing up to his responsibility, Aang leaves his friends and sets out for Ozai's fortress where he will fight the Fire Lord, alone. Meanwhile, the Fire Lord's Firebenders catch up with Zuko and the kids and attack, capturing Zuko and Katara. Luckily, Sokka and Toph escape.

        After a long journey, Aang arrives at the Fire Lord's fortress. Ozai sets a trap and hundreds of Firebenders surround Aang. With his life threatened, Aang's arrow tattoos begin to glow. His Avatar spirit awakens and uses the four elements to seal Aang inside a sphere of stone, similar to when the storm endangered his life. With Aang trapped, the Firebenders deliver Aang to Fire Lord Ozai, but even his remarkable powers can't crack Aang's protective shell.

        While Earth Kingdom troops move closer to the capital, Sokka and Toph track the captured Zuko and Katara to the Fire Lord's fortress, hoping to save Katara. Nearby, Sokka and Toph discover a fleet of fully operational zeppelins preparing to take off. In the Fire Lord's eccentric menagerie, Sokka finds Aang's bison, alive. Freeling Appa, Sokka flies him into battle and hijacks a zeppelin from the air. With the zeppelin's firepower, Sokka destroys the rest of the fleet, clearing the way for the Earth forces to storm the Fire Lord's fortress.

        Inside the fortress, Katara and Zuko break away from their captors and search for Aang, hoping to help him. Zuko leads them through secret passages to his father's chamber, where they encounter Zuko's brother, Prince Azul. Azul's Firebending is superior to Zuko's, but with Katara's help, they defeat the younger Prince, preventing him from helping his father battle Aang.

        As the comet streaks through the sky, Ozai's power doubles, allowing him to break Aang's protective sphere. Aang emerges ready to face his destiny. For the majority of the battle, Aang uses Air, Water and Earthbending against the Fire Lord, but Ozai holds the upper hand. However, by watching the Fire Lord fight, Aang learns Firebending. Equally strengthened by the comet, Aang assimilates Ozai's moves into his own and uses them to defeat the master. However, staying true to his ideals, Aang does not kill Ozai. Instead, using a technique available only to the Avatar, he takes away Ozai's Firebending powers and leaves him a weak man.

        As the Earth forces capture the capital city, Aang reunites with Katara, Sokka and Momo. Aang proves to his friends that he's ready for the Avatar's responsibilities.

        cont.

        • Hyatt says:

          Epilogue

          Zuko claims the Fire Lord's throne and vows to work with the Avatar to restore the Fire Nation to its proper place in the world. Toph returns to the Earth Kingdom to work with the Emperor in rebuilding his nation. Katara and Sokka rejoin their father and sail home to save their home and rebuild the Southern Water Tribe. Aang and Momo reunite with Appa and fly off in search of the Air Nomads, whom Aang believes lives in an unexplored part of the world. As the Avatar, Aang will travel the world, helping restore balance to the Nations. In the process, he will achieve what he always wanted – a life full of adventure."

          I think I prefer what we ended up with, especially good!Iroh and all the great female characters. Wish they could've kept Aang going off in search of Air Nomads, but that would be even better as a TV-movie (or as a comic, hint hint).

          • Lariren says:

            All I can think of when I see "Prince Azul" is learning in one of my Spanish classes in high school that principe azul is apparently how some places say Prince Charming.

          • sabra_n says:

            I have to say, I'm super-glad we avoided any ongoing lovey-dovey nonsense (or worse yet, a continuing love triangle) with the male Toph and Katara. I hate it when romance stuff distracts from a good, plotty show.

          • notemily says:

            Man, the real show is so much better.

  64. Mauve_Avenger says:

    I am spectacularly late to this post, but I have to note that Mark didn't post his responses to his Season 3 predictions the way he usually does.

    If I counted correctly, he got exactly half right and half wrong?

  65. Depths_of_Sea says:

    Everyone else has pretty much said all I want to say, meta-wise. And even years afterwards I'm not sure I'm completely capable of talking about this finale without going into EPIC CAPSLOCK OF FLAILAGE mode.

    SO LET'S JUST DISPENSE WITH PRETENSES AND SKIP STRAIGHT TO THE FLAILING.

    MY FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT THIS FINALE (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER):

    1. AANG IN THE AVATAR STATE.
    2. THE ZUKO VS. AZULA AND KATARA VS. AZULA FIGHTS, ESPECIALLY THE SOMBER AND BEAUTIFUL MUSIC CUE THE TRACK TEAM SCORED IT WITH.
    3. THE FINALE MUSIC IN GENERAL.
    4. HOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE GOT A CROWNING MOMENT OF AWESOME. INCLUDING SUKI.
    5. TY LEE JOINING THE KYOSHI WARRIORS, SHOWING THAT HER ISSUES WITH BEING IN A MATCHED SET HAVE DISAPPEARED, AND THAT SHE'S COMFORTABLE ENOUGH IN HER UNIQUENESS OF IDENTITY THAT SHE DOESN'T NEED TO BE THE "CIRCUS FREAK".
    6. ZUKO/MAI REUNION. WITH MAI SMILING AND HAPPY AND HAVING BROKEN COMPLETELY OUT OF HER EMOTIONLESS SHELL, JUST SHARING A QUIET DOMESTIC MOMENT WITH THE MAN SHE LOVES.

    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/GIFs/rawlesmaikosnuggle.gif&quot; />
    (Captions are from one of livejournal user rawles' post-finale posts. See here: http://rawles.livejournal.com/293950.html)

    7. THE CORONATION IS PRETTY MUCH THE MOST WONDERFUL THING EVER. ZUKO+AANG BBFS FOR LIFE AND HAKODA IS SO PROUD. MY HEART CANNOT TAKE THIS.
    8. AANG/KATARA BALCONY KISS.

    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/GIFs/kataangkiss.gif&quot; />
    UHM YEAH, SO I THINK THAT WHOLE SEQUENCE IS POSSIBLY THE MOST GORGEOUS BIT OF WESTERN ANIMATION EVER.

    I mean seriously. I just… I dunno I just adore the way it's staged and animated and scored. Starts off with Aang looking out at the sunset, all heroic like, with the peaceful kalimba theme playing…
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1287.png&quot; />

    And then a slooooow pan over to Katara.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1289.png&quot; />

    Close-up track on her until she's by Aang's side, rack-focus, and he turns and smiles at her.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1292.png&quot; />

    And she blushes and smiles back with a warm look that is so full of love omg.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1293.png&quot; />

    And because this is Aang and Katara and they like to hug a lot they hug first.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1297.png&quot; />

    And their expressions are SO CONTENT.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1299.png&quot; />
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1301.png&quot; />

    They turn for a moment to look out at the world at peace, a world they've helped save, together.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1302.png&quot; />

    AND THEN THE PRETTIEST RENDITION OF THE KATAANG ROMANCE THEME PIPES IN AND THEN SWELLS TO EPIC VOLUME AS THEY KISS.
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1315-1.png&quot; />
    <img alt="" src="http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h90/TariElensar/ep61-1319.png&quot; />

    THEN SLOW PAN UP TO THE SUNSET SKY AND CUE END CREDITS.

    Nothing much else to say. I dearly love Avatar and I was happy to relive it all through your fresh new eyes Mark. Thank you for that privilege.

  66. Trips says:

    There was something about the finale that always bugged me just a little bit. There was so much concentrated awesome and I never ever get tired of watching Zuko and Azula throw down in a comet-powered Agni Kai.

    But.

    Aang. He spent the first half of the finale looking for a way to not kill. And his opening move against Ozai was to smash his zepplin into the rocky geography. The USS San Francisco was going somewhere around 30-40 miles an hour when it did something similar (smashing into a big rock, not getting up close with the Avatar). The kinetic energy transfer of something that large stopping that suddenly turns everything inside it into a missle. People were flung about and seriously injured and one even died. At it wasn't even on fire when it happened.

    I know. TV show. Maybe no one died. They all limped out or something… but it still stinks of hypocrisy.

    • Kate says:

      The amount of times someone has been killed by Aang off screan, or insanely injured πŸ˜› It's one of those things you have to let go.

    • breesquared says:

      This is a really good point. Someone was totally piloting that damn airship, as well as all the airships Sokka smashed into.

  67. MissC_93 says:

    First of all,
    "I swear that I can describe things better than that usually, but what the hell do you call it? Lion turtle telepathy?"
    Just think of it as a Lionturtle. That can talk.

    Things that broke in the Avatar finale:
    A couple of airships.
    Sokka's leg.
    Azula's mirror.
    Azula's trust and faith in everyone.
    Azula herself.
    My heart :'(

    Really, though, this is why I cannot hate Azula. The things she's done; sure. But her personally? Never. It's clear that she's just as much a victim as, if not more so than, Zuko. If you think about it, she has been abandoned by everyone she ever cared about (as much as she is capable of caring about other people, of course). First her mother, then her brother, then her only friends, and now her father. It really is absolutely heartbreaking to watch her breakdown.

    Also, Toph's scene!!
    Think about how scary it would be in her position: Dangling in the air, able to feel the fire below, not able to see or touch anything except for a single hand that is slowly starting to slip away…
    And so she starts crying. She is frightened! This is Toph; the Blind Bandit; the Runaway; the Melon Lord! Toph almost never gets frightened! But here she is, because her situation is freaking terrifying!!!

    Okay, I'm making myself depressed thinking about these things, so I'll just mention the happy ending and end the comment now.

  68. EmD says:

    TBH I felt cheated about Energy bending.

    Alos, leaving Ozai alive powerless, villified, and locked up forever in a cell is a lot crueler than killing him. GG Aang

    • lossthief says:

      leaving Ozai alive powerless, villified, and locked up forever in a cell is a lot crueler than killing him. GG Aang

      Think of it from this perspective: If Ozai had been killed at the end of the fight, that would have been the end of his story, but with his life, even without his bending he still has an opportunity (no matter how slim, and how unlikely he is to take it) to redeem himself and change. It goes back to what Zuko says to him in his prison cell: "Banishing me was the best thing you could have done for my life. It put me on the right path. Perhaps your time in here could do the same for you."

  69. ComputerizedWoman says:

    You want to meet Avatar_Mom? XD Does this mean you shall be joining avatarspirit.net? Because that would be awesome!!!!

  70. Hotaru_hime says:

    ENERGYBENDING.
    THE MUSIC
    THE ANIMATION
    EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL.
    This finale! THIS FINALE, Y'ALL. My favorite scene is Aang Energybending, because even though I knew Aang had to win (they had lost so many times, he couldn't lose now! Not like this!) I still had my fist in my mouth, absolutely terrified that Ozai's will would overpower Aang's will.
    I don't have too much to say (it will basically echo Mark) beyond Azula's defeat! Dear God, that poor creature. She's really not a good person, but you can't help but pity someone who's fallen so far. And with someone as unstable as she is, do you think Zuko would ask Aang to Energybend away her Firebending? Because look, Azula, should she ever recover her stability will most certainly bust out of where-ever they would keep her and amass her own forces against Zuko. Not everyone in the Fire Nation is going to celebrate peace and the abrupt ending of Fire Nation occupation of other lands- all those men assigned as mayors would probably revolt behind Azula. They'd have a good reason to back them up, since Ozai declared Azula to be Fire Lord in front of hundreds before declaring himself Phoenix King.
    But I'm just looking forward to Legend of Korra and the problems she will face! YAAAY!
    Mark! Don't forget to go to the Fringe panel and tell us everything, because OMG, that season finale, what the fuck.

  71. kartikeya200 says:

    My not terribly organized thoughts on spirit-bending, Aang, and the Avatar:

    One of the most major themes of this show is that things are either in balance, or out of balance. After a hundred years of war and Fire Nation aggression, the world itself is terribly out of balance, with entire species going extinct and an entire nation being wiped out, and it's up to the Avatar and his friends to 'bring balance to the world'.

    But the Avatar too, is out of balance.

    Aang begins this journey by running away. He's afraid of the responsibility of being the Avatar, the pressure and expectations of a world on the very brink of war. He denies what he is to Katara and Sokka, he turns his back on a fourth of what it means to be the Avatar ("You are the Avatar. Therefore, you are a Firebender"), he hates and fears how terrifying being the Avatar makes him, and he defies the idea that he must let go of the things he loves in order to become a fully realized Avatar.

    "Why did you deny being the Avatar?" "Because I never wanted to be."

    As Aang moves through his journey, triumphing and failing, learning and growing, we see him become more comfortable with the idea of being the Avatar. He learns each of the four elements, he overcomes his fear of Firebending, he learns to face up to his problems, and while the pressure is overwhelming, he's able to bear up under it. Apart from Roku's occasional talks and Guru Pathik's studies, Aang has no idea how to really and truly be the Avatar. It's not just about learning all four elements, defeating the Fire Lord, and bringing peace to the world. Those are processes and duties. Being the Avatar, really being the Avatar, means having balance both within and without. Aang's biggest journey is not the eventual confrontation with Ozai, although that's, of course, extremely important. Aang's journey is about reconciling himself with being the Avatar. Being both the Avatar AND Aang, in balance, not conflicting.

    We also learn that the Avatar has a duty to the spirits as well. The spirit world is woven throughout the physical world, both separate and inextricable. It's the Avatar that is the link between them, and many times throughout the series Aang is called upon to deal with both the other spirits and his own. While the lion-turtle is very much a physical, living creature, it's also the last great 'spiritual journey' we see Aang have in this show. The lion-turtle is the oldest living creature in the world. It is so old that it is from the time before the Avatar, before bending. And on nearly the eve of Sozin's Comet and Aang's greatest spiritual crisis (kill the Fire Lord and do his duty as the Avatar, but sacrifice who he is not only as Aang, but as the Last Airbender), it comes to Aang.

    People have said the lion-turtle's appearance is ridiculous because it just happens to turn up at the right time. I don't think 'just happens' has anything to do with it. There's a reason the lion-turtle showed up right at that time. The Avatar, the great bridge between the spiritual and the physical worlds, needs to find a way to balance himself and thus balance the world. He needs to come to terms with what that will mean. And the spirit world is in as much danger as the physical from the ramifications of what Ozai wants to do with Sozin's Comet: we know this because we saw what happened to Hei Bai when part of his forest was destroyed. We've seen what became of the Painted Lady when her river was polluted. We know what happened to the moon when the moon spirit was killed and what happened at the North Pole when the ocean spirit was enraged.

    As Iroh says, "We all depend on the balance."

    We've seen the idea of spirtual energy many, many times before. We learn about how everything is spiritually connected in The Swamp. We see Guru Pathik read Appa's energy in Appa's Lost Days. We've heard Iroh talk about chi, seen Ty Lee block bending by hitting certain pressure points and 'blocking' the flow of chi, watched Aang have visions of his friends' in danger, and every time we've seen Aang enter the Avatar state, we've seen the tattoos that follow the lines of chi in his body light up with all of the spiritual power and energy of every last one of his past lives. We've learned that the art of bending is every bit as much spiritual as physical, that a bender's 'spirit' is intricately important to their abilities and their culture and everything about them.

    Aang's discussions with his past lives are telling. They tell him he must be 'decisive', that justice is required for peace, that he must act, he can't run away, and he must be willing to sacrifice his own spiritual needs for the good of the world. None of them say that killing Ozai is what must be done, even though that seems to be the only option at the time. And Aang admits, once he's finished speaking with them, that he sees no other way out of this.

    • kartikeya200 says:

      Let's talk about why this is such an extraordinary problem for Aang. He's clinging to his upbringing, what he was taught by the monks, that all life is sacred, no matter what. Aang believes this wholeheartedly, it's not just his personal philosophy, it's the philosophy of his people, the Air Nomads, and Aang, twelve-year-old Aang, is the very last one. If you think letting go of his staff was hard, consider. His staff was just an object. A treasured object, but just a thing. This particular form of pacifism is the core of who Aang is, and the core of who his people were. Giving that up for the sake of the world may be necessary, but it does mean letting one of the last pieces of the Air Nomads die forever. He can't just pick it back up afterward. He'll be fundamentally different. He'll be, as he says, not himself. Not Aang. That's part of why the Avatar state scares him so much; in the Avatar state, there IS no regard for the sanctity of life. When he goes into the Avatar state, he's anger and rage and raw, unstoppable power. The reason why Aang killing that buzzard-wasp in The Desert was so ugly and disturbing was because this is fundamentally not who Aang is.

      So finally, when Aang discovers he's made this last bit of soul searching aboard the giant shell of the oldest creature alive, he makes one last desperate plea: he needs to find a way to fulfill his duties as the Avatar without losing himself. And that's why the lion-turtle is there: to give him what he asks for. The most ancient secret in the world.

      "In the time before the Avatar, we bent not the elements, but the energy within ourselves."

      The lion-turtle touches Aang in the Third Eye Chakra and the Heart Chakra. From wikipedia:

      In Hinduism and Buddhism, the third eye is a symbol of enlightenment (see moksha and nirvana). In the Indian tradition, it is referred to as the gyananakashu, "the eye of knowledge", which is the seat of the "teacher inside" or antar-guru. The third eye is the ajna chakra (sixth chakra) also known as brow chakra or brow center. This is commonly denoted in Indian and East Asian iconography with a dot, eye or mark on the forehead of deities or enlightened beings, such as Shiva, the Buddha, or any number of yogis, sages and bodhisattvas. This symbol is called the "Third Eye" or "Eye of Wisdom", or, in Buddhism, the urna. In Hinduism, it is believed that the opening of Shiva's third eye causes the eventual destruction of the physical universe.

      Anahata is considered the seat of the Jivatman, and Para Shakti. In the Upanishads, this is described as being like a tiny flame that resided inside the heart. Anahata is so called because it is in this place that sages hear that sound (Anahata – Shabda) which comes without the striking of any two things together.”[2] It is associated with the element of air, the sense of touch, and with actions of the hands.

      Anahata is associated with the ability to make decisions outside of the realm of karma. In Manipura and below, man is bound by the laws of karma, and the fate he has in store for him. In Anahata, one is making decisions, 'following your heart', based upon one's higher self, and not from the unfulfilled emotions and desires of lower nature.

      It is also associated with love and compassion, charity to others, and forms of psychic healing.

      Meditation on this chakra is said to bring about the following siddhis, or occult powers; he becomes a lord of speech; he is dearer than the dearest to women; his senses are completely under control; and he can enter at will into another's body.

    • kartikeya200 says:

      Remember, it's all about balance. The Avatar can't bring balance to the world without being balanced himself, and Aang has always been out of balance. If Aang kills Ozai, letting his Avatar duties override his very sense of self, Aang is out of balance, and therefore the Avatar is out of balance. If Aang refuses to bring Ozai to justice, letting his sense of self override his Avatar duties, Aang is out of balance, and therefore the Avatar is out of balance.

      This last time we see him enter the uncontrolled Avatar state, Aang is more terrifying than ever. He's unstoppable, and fully intending not only to kill Ozai, but to execute him, to deliver cold, brutal judgment. And this is the very first time we ever see Aang voluntarily leave it without help too; killing Ozai is in such conflict with what he is, that he actually brings himself out of the Avatar state. He declares he won't, and he can't kill Ozai.

      But this isn't right either, is it? Ozai immediately tries to kill Aang, and finally Aang bring's the right solution to bear. He's decisive, actively seizing his own destiny, willing to sacrifice himself for the rest of the world, and delivering justice. Like lightning bending, and blood bending, and metal bending, the Avatar, the spirit of the world (a concept I'm not sure they kept for canon, but one they started with) learns how to bend spirit. And by doing that, Aang becomes a fully realized Avatar, because he has finally learned how to balance himself. He's able to enter and exit the Avatar state at will, and he uses that to put out the fires and bring the destruction to an end.

      There's a reason this final part is called 'Avatar Aang'.

      I can see why people consider this a cop out, a deus ex machina, or an asspull. I was a little underwhelmed by the solution myself the first time I saw this finale, but ever since, reflecting on the themes of the show and Aang's series-long journey, I've come to the conclusion that I can't honestly see it happening any other way. The Avatar must bring balance to the world. And to do that, the Avatar must bring balance to himself.

      • Depths_of_Sea says:

        Just wanted to say, that is a beautiful analysis and I commend you.

      • jubilantia says:

        YES. That was a beautiful analysis. I didn't really think of it as a possible deux ex machina until people started talking about it that way, but I never agreed with them. This is a great articulation of why I was satisfied.

      • arctic_hare says:

        I love this comment so much and wish to hug it somehow. (I'll find a way!) <3

      • Bard Child says:

        oh my god can I like find a way to friend you some how, like on AIM or something BECAUSE OH MY GOD
        THIS FOREVER Thank you for saying that was exactly on my mind and catching all the vedic philosophy. This is what I was trying to say and and you said it. Thank you so much

        *TOTES WANNA BE UR FRIEND*

      • simplefaith08 says:

        <3
        This is a spectacular analysis.

      • notemily says:

        This is an amazing essay. Love.

      • FlameRaven says:

        This is a beautiful essay and a spectacular analysis. I never had a problem with the lionturtle or energybending; it seemed to me that while they had rewritten their entire mythology in one stroke, that stroke was elegant and extremely relevant. We knew there had to be something before the Avatar, and we learned what it was. But your essay explains not just what we learned but why it was so necessary to the whole message of the show.

        Also can I just say that I love that we can have such deep analysis and discussion of universal themes in a children's show omg. I think this show is now officially tied with Fullmetal Alchemist as my Favorite Anything Ever. It's just gorgeous gorgeous storytelling at its best.

      • shirtninjas says:

        Thank you for beautifully putting into words EVERYTHING I didn't know how to say myself about the ending.

      • OMG! This! All of this!
        I liked the ending. I liked the way they handled it. And if you think about the deeper meanings and issues this makes sense. The things that are not so in your face. I think that is why I enjoyed Aang's journey so much – his development was not this in-your-face roller coaster ride.

        I don't know – I guess I like subtlety. I like having to look for things or look at things in a different way.

        Bravo! πŸ˜€

    • thesimplyuninspired says:

      You are a very, very smart, thoughtful person and this essay is beautiful and perfect. I want to be as smart as you someday. <3

  72. Nomie says:

    Mark, I am not kidding when I say this post made me tear up. AT WORK.

    I love this show, and I love that we were able to take this journey with you. <3

  73. Cakemage says:

    Man, Azula's final breakdown was…wow. Really well done, in the sense that it was so realistic that I had to go and stare at the wall for a few hours after I saw it because it gave me flashbacks to my own nervous breakdown at age 15, when the built-up stress of having had several of my friends abandon me without a word, watching the dog I'd raised from puppy-hood suddenly–and without warning or explanation–attack one of my other dogs (she survived, but needed over 300 stitches), kill another who'd gotten too close to the fight (we'd had him for nine years), and held her as she was put to sleep the next day; the death of my grandmother after a long struggle with Parkinson's, and realizing that I liked girls (all of which happened within two months), came to a breaking point. It wasn't pretty, and I was a complete mess for years afterward. Wow, that is a long, awkward run-on sentence, but I can't seem to phrase it any better.

    Anyway, it was only thanks to my wonderful, supportive parents and the aid of modern therapy and pharmaceuticals that I was able to recover and become at least somewhat functioning, although it's safe to say that, even ten years later, I still have Issues and probably always will, for various reasons (almost all of which are unrelated to my breakdown and its aftermath, at least) . But I digress.

    It's because of this that I couldn't really enjoy the episode, in spite of the fact that it's the most amazing series finale I've ever seen in all other regards. I'm not saying that the portrayal of Azula's breakdown is a bad thing, mind, just that it triggered me in a big way. I went into the finale fully expecting her to die (and dreading it, because as horrible a person as she is, I still love her character), and in a way, I kind of wonder if she wouldn't have been better off that way. I know Bryke said that there's still hope for her to recover, but really, what kind of chance does she have? And what kind of quality of life could she expect? I know that it could be argued that she doesn't deserve any, but it's still an uncomfortable thing for me to think about. I'm probably over-thinking it though, as it's highly unlikely that Aang, Zuko or Katara would be able to watch her suffering and not at least try to help her. Ty Lee would probably forgive her and try to help as well, though Mai would probably be reluctant to do so, which is her right and which I could not blame her for. And also, she's a fictional character. BUT STILL.

  74. NopeJustMe says:

    I totally ship awkward small talk helmet/mask guys. IT WAS FLIRTING. Shhhhh, don't spoil my crack ship.

  75. Angie says:

    *love bends*

    • Angie says:

      That possibly came out creepy. Aheh.

      I love:
      THIS EPIC, FANTASTIC, BEAUTIFUL, IMPROBABLE, INGENIOUS, CREATIVE, INSPIRING, AMAZING SHOW.

      ETA: I should have just edited instead of replying and ugh.

      I love the fact that even incidental characters – nameless Fire Nation troops – are not always masked and forbidding and scary, but they are portrayed as human. They're just doing what they have to do to survive. We've seen flashes of personality, we've seen moments of emotion from chagrin to shame to joy to fury. It would have been so easy to have made all the soldiers complete nonentities, but there is nobody on this show who is nothing. I just think that's interesting. What other animated show has such life even in characters who say nothing and are not integral to any plot or anything.

      I love that this show – an animated television show aimed towards children – imparted so many, many good messages.

      I love the beautiful animation, the use of color and music. I'm in awe of the fantastic architecture and costumes and landscapes.

      I honestly can't offhand think of another show with such a satisfying conclusion.

      ETA AGAIN: I cried several times during this finale. I cried at Zuko and Iroh's reunion, "thank you, Katara," extinguishing the fires, and "rebuild it together."

      FINAL EDIT I PROMISE: I choose to believe that Sokka finds his amazing space sword, through sheer dumb luck. They're meant to be together. Yes.

      And while I'm at it, I'd like to mention ATLA: The Lost Adventures, a graphic novel from Dark Horse that has short stories in comic form. From what I've seen of it, it looks really well done and I want it. And I believe there are more ATLA comic books in the pipeline, maybe?

      It has been so much fun reliving this show.

  76. Kate says:

    The music, or rather blow torch sound when Ozai was creating that first massive fire blast. Holy hell. It sends shivers down my spine every time. The music in this show is astounding, but for the finale…hot damn.

    I list to the Last Agni Kai on my iPod all the time. It's amazing.

  77. beeftony says:

    Mark, it has truly been a treasure watching you experience this show for the first time. I had fallen out of love with Avatar fandom after witnessing the furor over the movie (seriously, don’t watch it; this is your last chance to turn back), and kind of lost sight of why I even liked this show to begin with. Witnessing your enthusiasm for what is undoubtedly a modern masterpiece of animation has reminded me of why I fell in love with this show, and has allowed me to experience that excitement all over again. Thank you.

    I do have thoughts on the finale, but they’ve all been expressed in many other places and in all honesty I’m not interested in dredging up old thoughts. I am happy that you enjoyed it and I look forward to your coverage of the Korra panel.

    Now enjoy my four personal favorite AMVs from this fandom, the first of which actually won best in show at Connecticon in 2009:

    [youtube 8RtGMZv6Rjs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RtGMZv6Rjs youtube]

  78. kartikeya200 says:

    I guess it's time for the personal essay now, because I do have lots of other Thoughts~ on this show, but most of them have been wonderfully articulated by Mark and other people already.

    I am, unashamedly, a total animation geek. I have loved traditional animation for uh…well, basically as far back as I can remember. The very first video we owned when I was a kid was Sleeping Beauty, and my father used to sing that 'I love you' song to me to make me laugh. This is one of my earliest memories, and I watched that movie so much I think I wore out the tape. I love an awful lot of the Disney animated canon, though I freely admit that many things in it can be and are problematic. The first time I really gave a serious answer to the 'what do you want to be when you grow up' question, my answer was an animator, preferably with Disney (at the time, they were going strong in that department. Alas.)

    I'm generally a very non-talkative person in real life, but if you want to get me going for hours get me on the subject of animation, because I'll just go on and on and on about what I think is fantastic and what I think is absolute garbage and all my many ~feelings~ in regards to the ups and downs of the traditional art of animation. Which isn't to say I don't like computer animation (Pixar you OWN MY SOUL, except for Cars, because what), but I have a deep appreciation for the kind of patience it takes to sit down at a drawing board with pencil and paper and draw out each frame by hand (or draw it out by hand on the computer, it's not much less work). I don't think anyone can really comprehend how much WORK it is until they've tried it, and for me, if there's one thing I've realized about my own artistic abilities, it's that I absolutely don't have the sheer, unbelievable willpower-powered patience to do this kind of animation. Which I don't think has done anything to detract from my love of it. Actually, I think it's made me love it more.

    Want to see me nerdrage? Imply that the medium of animation is somehow 'lesser' than other entertainment mediums, simply by virtue of being animation (or imply that animation is somehow a genre, asfsfs MY PARENTS DO THIS ALL THE TIME IT DRIVES ME UP THE WALL). And my biggest disappointment when it comes to animation is just how many people, especially the people involved with actually creating it, refuse to take it seriously. And I don't mean SUPER SRS BUSINESS, but there are so many people in the entertainment industry and out who believe that 'cartoons are for kids' and 'kids are stupid' and therefore 'cartoons are stupid and we don't have to put effort into them'.

    This is why I love Avatar as an animation geek. Avatar is a 'kids' cartoon' that both takes itself seriously as a medium and doesn't talk down to children. It tells a fantastic, wonderful story in a way that no other medium could. It goes places that you can only go through animation. It celebrates storytelling tropes and themes that are very very familiar and makes them feel new. It has a deep respect for cultures outside the Western norm, and its creators did everything they could to try and maintain that. It explores dark themes, and deep themes, and life themes, and it goes places you never expect children's entertainment to go, but it makes you wonder why more children's entertainment doesn't do exactly that. It's not perfect, and not flawless (though it comes closer than I think any other piece of animation I've personally experienced ever has). It is beautiful, and it is art, and it is a whole hell of a lot of fun–what cartoons should ultimately strive to be, in my opinion.

    That all sounds so highbrow, I don't know. This show just makes me dance with utter glee.

    • stephanienienie says:

      Extremely well-put, and I don't think it sounds too high-brow at all, just a simple appreciation for something of good quality. Almost everything you said is what I continuously tell people when they doubt the quality of this cartoon, because it is 'American,' ergo some people can't possibly recognize it to be as good as Japanese anime. So I argue tirelessly. Anyone who looks through the beautiful artbook can see the amount of intensive research, thought, and care stuffed into AtLA.

    • simplefaith08 says:

      Dude. Are you me? πŸ˜‰

    • arctic_hare says:

      Thank you for this comment, it's fantastic and I agree so much. <3 I love animation too, and detest the common perception that kids are stupid and thus their entertainment is/should be too. I love that Avatar does all the things you talk about.

    • lossthief says:

      Thank you for what you said about people discounting animation! It always irks me when people belittle a specific art form as worthless, or inherently lesser than some other medium. It's like how Voice Actors can't be nominated for Academy Awards, because apparently they don't consider that "real" acting.

      • notemily says:

        What's worse for me is that all animated movies apparently have to have famous screen actors as voice actors now, instead of hiring ACTUAL VOICE ACTORS who have voice acting as their specialty. Makes me sadface.

    • FlameRaven says:

      Yes yes, are you me? I nerdrage about animation being a 'lesser medium' all the time.

      I, too, wanted to be an animator when I was younger, and then I thought about it and realized that I get hopelessly bored by tedious, difficult, repetitive tasks. Which is pretty much 90% of animation. So I went into illustration instead. All the storytelling basis of animation, but far fewer images at a time. But I still respect and love the magic of storytelling in animation and comics.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      ugh i heart this comment so hard.

  79. Jenny says:

    Mark- It has been so much fun reading your reactions as you watched the series for your first time. Seeing as how it ended three years ago, life went on for me, as even though I still count myself in the dedicated Avatar fandom, I lost interest and didn't fully appreciate how wonderful the show truly was. Reading your reviews reminded me of how excited I would get before each new episode growing up, for three years this was something I looked forward to. Now 18 and heading off to college, this was a really nice way to reflect on how far I've come, not to mention get a taste of the old excitement as your glee was so infectious it pushed me to go back and watch some of my old favorites.

    I'll be at Comic Con as well, and Saturday I'll be with the masses at both the Avatar fan panel and the Korra exclusive first look. I'll definitely keep an eye out for you, I'd love to come say "hello"! πŸ™‚ I'll be the one carrying around a plush Appa!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      Jenny, thank you SO SO SO MUCH. Please come say hello! I will make a fool of myself at that panel hahaha.

      • Heeey, should we print signs or something so we can find all the Mark Watches people at the Korra panel? Or a secret hand symbol? I don't know if I'll make the fan panel because I want to get into Community. Or maybe we can plan a Mark Watches meeting afterward? I don't have any need-to-see panels after that, though who knows what else will come up.

        • Jenny says:

          I try and make myself as conspicuous as possible without going into full out cosplaying, so if you see me do say hi πŸ™‚ I think a meet up would have been cool, but at this point it might be a little late since a lot of people already are at the Con, or have things planned…Next year perhaps? πŸ˜€ HEY MARK, LETS DO A MEET UP NEXT YEAR SO WE CAN ALL BE HAPPY AND GEEK AND EVERYTHING WILL BE WONDERFUL.

          Anywho, again, I'll be carrying around a plush Appa and wearing my AvatarSpirit.net shirt, and I always love saying hello to people.

  80. hhgrrl says:

    WWWAAAAHHHHH!!! Mark watches A:tLA is over! I must say, though, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the reviews and comments here and will miss them. I don't know if I will be able to start any new Mark watches though. I am trying to finish up with college. And tending to three children/preteens/teens. As for the live action movie, I watched it, twice, and I really can't say whether it was truly as terrible as others say it is, but hear me out. I took my middle child to the movie theater to see it. He wanted to see something that was no longer playing there. He whispered almost the entire time, so I missed a lot of it. My husband rented it from one of those kiosks and I was still rather distracted while watching (Mmmooooomm, brother is looking at me; Mmmoooooomm, sister is breathing on me, etc.). I knew enough about the animated series to be thoroughly lost during the movie. I did not watch the series in order when it first aired (~kids show~ I got enough flak for being a Harry Potter fan), but my children did watch it, sometimes I would catch five minutes here, fifteen minutes there, and occasionally, an entire episode, but it would be out of sequence. Then, AFTER the movie premiered, NickToons aired the entire series, in order, with Avatar Extras. My interest was piqued, I DVR 'ed the series and am how a full fledged fan.

  81. fantasylover120 says:

    I do sort of wish a more satisfying conclusion had been given for Azula but that is my only really minor complaint in a fantastic end to a fantastic series. I'm so glad you enjoyed this Mark. I believe it's Battlestar Galactia next, yes?

  82. Murph says:

    Ah crap, I meant to post this earlier. Hope I'm not too late.

    After the series ended, a conversation was struck up on an Avatar imageboard about what kind the offspring of the canon couples could be like and what kind of adventures they might seek after hearing such tall tales of their parents' epic journey. Thanks to a bunch of anonymous and un-anonymous artists and authors, the Extended Universe of 'Gaang Jr. Adventures' was born! http://gaangjr.wikia.com/wiki/Gaang_Junior_Advent

    It's a collection of art, comics, and fanfiction centered around the 5 Gaang offspring with appearances by numerous characters from the series. Theres a very loose timeline, some of the stories are episodic in nature while calling back to other stories to string together some nice character development.

    There's also Azula! She's healed from her breakdown and mended bridges with her brother, Mai, and Ty Lee and is living peacefully in exile on a fire nation island and the Gaang Jr. absolutely admires her. All of them refer to her as "Aunt Azula"! πŸ˜€

    Feel free to click around the character pages, especially the main 5 Gaang offsprings' pages (their profiles are in the "Main Characters" dropdown menu near the top of the page), and if you like what ya see feel free to dive into a story or two. If you're looking for a quick laugh, I recommend checking out Yi Lin's profile. She has a lot of characteristics that written in just to take the piss out of obsessive shippers. She literally ships EVERYONE AROUND HER and it's both funny and adorable.

  83. thesimplyuninspired says:

    So…I wish that I could, like, sit here and talk about amazing insights just like everyone else? Problem is everyone else has already touched on subjects I'd talk about. So…
    I guess I just want to say: Mark, sharing this show with you was an absolute delight. So often I read your reactions, and can't help remembering my own feelings from the first go around. You always have these amazing (and very often tragic) insights into things that add another layer to them, and I sometimes start seeing things in a different light because of you. I hope that this will be a continuing trend (I understand you're doing Battlestar Galactica next? Which I have NEVER SEEN? So THAT will be an experience!)

  84. Caterfree10 says:

    I TOLD YOU YOU WERE NOT PREPARED FOR THIS AKJSFHDSLKFHDSKFH

    And yeah, you guessed exactly right, the last Agni Kai is indeed my favorite scene in the entire series. :3 It's so fucking powerful. We see a young woman who's fallen from the grace she clung to so desperately, a young man who has come into his own and has come to take his place back, and another young woman who is always there for anyone who needs her. Just. The clash between Azula and Zuko and Katara is so breathtaking. And Zuko fucking taking a bolt of lightning for Katara. alkfjhdsflkjshfsldjf my shipper heart, y'all. ;A; It's like. A part of me is still sad that they didn't get together in the end. But on the other hand, we got this amazing scene and I couldn't be happier with it. It's worth more than a million onscreen kisses as far as I'm concerned (even if the fan manips are quite nice, kekeke).

    Though. I'm often annoyed that we never had Aang apologize onscreen to Katara for screwing up during Ember Island Players. We know he knew he fucked up, but we never saw the make up, as it were. True, Bryke said in the art book that there's three months between Zuko's coronation and the party in Ba Sing Se, but it would've been nice to actually see rather than infer it happening, ya know? Bleh, I still need to write that fic to satisfy myself. <<;;

    And I am honestly conflicted about Aang's ultimate method of defeating Ozai. On the one hand, I feel it was a complete cop out to have Ozai's bending taken away and leave it at that. He orchestrated a fucking genocide of the Earth Kingdom that would've succeeded had it not been for Team Avatar, for spirits' sake. At the very least, he could've died a Disney death where he killed himself through his own damn pride or something if Aang continued to refuse to do the deed himself (think end of Lion King 2 or Hunchback of Notre Dame). On the other hand, with him dead, there'd be no way for Zuko to even get a lead on where Ursa is (NOT LIKE WE EVER FIND OUT ANYWAY AND BRYKE ARE ALWAYS FUCKING VAGUE ABOUT IT IN EVERY INTERVIEW EVER *SOB* SMH AT MIKE BEING THE ONE TO AX THE ZUKO AND URSA REUNION. SO. MUCH. HATE.) and I love Zuko too damn much to take that away from him. So… yeah. ~_~

    On top of that, I wish energybending itself got some kind of foreshadowing prior to the finale. At least the Lion Turtle got its image in The Library, ya know? I mean, we couldn't have some kind of allusion to a "rare power only the Avatar can harness" at some point in the series? Even as a "throwaway" line? Hell, could've worked in The Library as well, when ya think about it. shafkjhsdflkjds So wish it was handled better. :/

    Other than that, I really do love this finale. It was well executed in so many ways otherwise. I fear I'll get a lot of flack for my comment, though. ~_~ ("STOOPID ZOOTARD, ALL U CARE ABOUT IS WHETHER OR NOT ZUKO AND KATARA GOT TOGETHER" no I don't, you ignorant buffoons *SNARL* /bitter)

    OH OH, I JUST THOUGHT OF SOMETHING.

    Have you seen the chibi shorts yet?

    BECAUSE IF YOU HAVEN'T YOU MUST~ 8DDDD

    • Elle says:

      We didn't see Katara or Zuko apologize for their behavior in "The Southern Raiders." And at least with Aang we saw how his behavior upset him. Zuko didn't seem the least bothered by making fun of someone's beliefs and then accepting all the forgiveness heaped upon him later on.

  85. Chantal says:

    Mark! You should read the "How I Became Yours" fancomic that's basically the "My Immortal" of the Avatar fandom. =D It was written/drawn by artist Jackie Diaz who was unhappy with the finale of Avatar and rewrote the epilogue so that Zuko and Katara are together and Mai is uncharacteristically vengeful. The grammar, unintended humor, and terrible graphics make it just as bad as My Immortal (for example, the artist used images from the cartoon and tweaked the positioning for each panel).
    Unfortunately, it's hard to find, but here's a description of it: http://badwebcomics.wikidot.com/how-i-became-your

    • Hyatt says:

      BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!

      The author doesn't like Sokka/Suki, so she borrows Suki's character design to use as generic maids. She then pairs Sokka up with Azula, who has lost her memory and apparently her whole personality; Azula ends up becoming a blander Yue clone. Aang and Toph get paired up and shoved aside. Worst Best of all, there's a sequel in the works!

      I found a dramatic reading video that also shows the artwork, but it only goes up to the beginning of Chapter 2, so it looks like it's been abandoned.

    • Depths_of_Sea says:

      Photobucket to the rescue!
      http://s762.photobucket.com/albums/xx265/ReneeLuv

      That's the whole comic, plus miscellaneous fanart by the same person, uploaded by a fan I think.

    • Bard Child says:

      What was terrible was Jackie Diaz was serious with "How I Became Yours", My Immortal was a massive troll joke.

      AND FOR BONUS http://capslock-atla.livejournal.com/tag/how%20i%

  86. agrinningfool says:

    Ah.. Azula. How I loved thee.
    Behold, the Eternal Phoenix Queen.

    (Artwork by me. :3)

    <img src="http://i28.photobucket.com/albums/c225/imperialphoenix/Artwork/Azulaposter1copy.jpg"&gt;

  87. Jay Gatsby says:

    I've decided to go back and reread "Mark Watches 'Avatar'". Maybe after a second read, I won't feel so empty now that it's all over (or maybe it'll make it worse!)

  88. Can't we all just stay here and comment forever?

  89. tinybit92 says:

    And you are now forever indebted to the creators of this show, and to the many fans who wouldn't stop screaming at you about it, for bringing you into the wonder that is Avatar. This is one of the well done shows I've ever watched, in every way imaginable. I could watch reruns of this show everyday for months and never get tired of it. Brilliant show in every aspect and the finale was perfect for something so fantastic. I'm so glad to have seen you do this, Mark. Also, one of my BFFs has finally started watching this show, at the urging of me and a bout six other people. Just as you reach the end another fan will be pulled in.

  90. notemily says:

    Mark, I was actually thinking about you and your sister while reading the excellent LJ post "Deconstructing Azula" that someone linked to in yesterday's comments. It talks about how different children react to abusive households in different ways. Not that that excuses deliberately hurting people, but it's still interesting.

    Anyway, when you said you felt sorry for Azula in this ep, all I could think was: "You're the weak one! You'll never know love! Or friendship! And I feel SORRY for you!"

    Everyone is saying these epic things about how this is goodbye and they're sorry to see Avatar end, and like, yeah, but… BRING ON MARK WATCHES BSG. For me, the fun never ends, it just turns into different fun!

    That said though, Avatar is a truly exceptional show and I'm glad you gave us the chance to watch it along with you, Mark.

    I also have to say, many of the comments on this show have been amazing. We have some awesome commenters here! You guys are always giving me a whole new perspective on things and I love it.

  91. misterbernie says:

    Thoughts!
    I'll take back part of my comment on the last post; I can accept the aangsting (hurp durp) over killing Ozai, but the endless talk on the back of the lion turtle still annoys me ~is so shallow~
    After rewatching the finale, I think the only thing that kinda bugs me is that the avatar state problem was solved by random rock to the spine. Aang then went on to win the battle with Ozai on his own merit, of course, and it's nicely symbolic how Ozai brings about his own doom by inadvertently slamming Aang into the rock (and thus undoing the damage done by Azula, HELLO SYMBOLIC SYMMETRY), but it does leave me kinda dissatisfied. Which is then made up for by epic battle, yay.

    I'll parrot something I've first picked up on TVTropes, iirc, namely that given how integral bending is to the benders' identities, not killing Ozai but taking away his bending may actually be much more cruel than simply killing him. Though I'm pretty sure that was not the intended message.

    "Alright hair, it's time to face your doom."
    Oh, Azula.
    My problem in interpreting her character (and actually a lot of the others) is that I didn't pick up on the fact that they're mostly supposed to be in their early teens until relatively late in the run of the show (which in retrospect explains many of the problems I've had with it; like why Aang/Katara squicked me out so much)… when you keep in mind that she's what, 14, her character becomes all the more tragic and horrific, although I guess her youth gives her a bigger opportunity to heal and find redemption.

    • FlameRaven says:

      There's a really fantastic little fanfic basically focusing on Ozai in his cell after the finale. Probably one of the most telling lines: And the Avatar called this mercy.

      Taking Ozai's bending away is definitely the crueler punishment, but it's also a bit of karmic justice. Although realistically having him around but imprisoned is not a good solution– it would probably cause a lot of civil unrest as people tried to restore Ozai to the throne.

      • misterbernie says:

        There'd probably be a lot of civil unrest anyways. The Fire Nation has basically gone through a hundred years of nationalist, xenophobic brainwashing, that's not gonna be undone just by the throne passing to someone who's seen the light.

      • Hyatt says:

        Even if Ozai had been killed, there would have been unrest. Remember Chin the Conqueror and Chin Village.

  92. no_face says:

    Azula's evil laugh ftw (needs gif)
    Hope you continue with some films later on *cough* Miyazaki *cough*

  93. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    WAIT SO SOMEONE TOLD ME THAT LEGEND OF KORRA COMES OUT IN THE FALL???

    IS THIS TRUE?????

    • breesquared says:

      I haven't seen any annoucement of the kind. Wikipedia says so, but the two cited sources don't make any mention of it.

    • @redbeardjim says:

      The original announcements from last year said that it was supposed to come out in fall 2011. This spring, that was changed to "mid-2012", along with the news that it had been expanded from the original 12-episode miniseries concept to a full 26 episodes.

  94. Colin says:

    I'm really going to miss these. Your enthusiasm was infectious. πŸ™‚

  95. @redbeardjim says:

    Mark, I just wanted to add my thanks for the opportunity to experience the show again through your eyes and words. It's always a treat to see someone encounter A:TLA for the first time, and your unabashed enthusiasm and eloquence made it a hell of a ride.

  96. Patrick721 says:

    I just realized how well some of this song fits, now that this glorious show is over (for now).

    Lately it occurs to me
    What a long, strange trip it's been.

    [youtube pafY6sZt0FE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pafY6sZt0FE youtube]

  97. Amira says:

    Thanks for the journey, Mark. πŸ™‚ I fell in love the show again. It was wonderful revisiting it and seeing it through the eyes of a new fan. I am glad you loved it.

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