Episode 13: The Blue Spirit
With Sokka and Katara still ailing from the effects of the storm, Aang must find some frozen frogs to cure his cohorts.
If the last episode, The Storm, was the most emotionally compelling episode so far, this is a close second. After all, you know you’re in for something good when you get your first recap.
The Blue Spirit operates as a reaction episode to the previous one, similar to most shows after an eventful episode (like how Sanctuary is to Five by Five for my fellow Buffy/Angel fans). Still, as a reaction, it utilizes plot structure and story beats to its strongest potential and plants seeds for a future kinship to develop between Aang and Zuko. You have your three-act structure, complete with a strong midpoint, climax, and reveals.
Also, is it just me or did the animation take a big jump in quality this episode? The movements seem smoother and more expressive than before. Maybe they’ve been saving the budget for the second half of the season.
Episode 14: The Fortune-Teller
Aang, Sokka, and Katara come across a village that’s dependent on its resident fortune-teller who has reliably predicted its future for generations.
RELIGION v SCIENCE: DAWN OF… FLOOZINESS?
We get another recap at the beginning of this episode, showcasing Aang’s crush on Katara, and develop that subplot further here. And, overall, this is another great episode! Sure, it doesn’t reach the heights of the last two episodes and operates a bit more like a filler, but it’s a fun and emotionally satisfying filler (kind of like the one where Katara pretends to be an earthbender).
We’re Aang-centric again as he learns how to actually talk to girls (complete with him making a fool of himself). Sokka shines in the most on-brand way, whether it be calling Aang out on his crushing then getting slapped by a fish or just straight up giving Aang bad advice. This is all intertwined with a town’s dependency on a fortune teller, threatened by a volcano they believe to be dormant.
No Fire Nation to be found here, and no super-saiyan moment, but rather it’s a fun Aang and the gang adventure that still has moments to feast your eyes on. I also know that it’s not just me. The animation is significantly better than before!
That platypus bear was a weird thing to see, though.
Episode 15: Bato of the Water Tribe
Aang acts childish during a reunion between Sokka, Katara, and a long time friend. Fearing that Sokka and Katara will desert him, Aang betrays them.
The strongest elements here may not reach the same heights as what we’ve seen in the show thus far, but the weakest elements are far from the worst.
It’s definitely a more action-oriented episode, notably in the second half. The first half deals with Aang’s obsession with friends, not wanting to lose any more close to him, and how that leads to immoral behavior. It also builds from the cliche where, if the character had just been eavesdropping for two seconds longer, they would have heard all they needed to hear and we could have avoided this whole mess.
Of course, the trio separate for a bit but band back together to take on Zuko (who somehow thought this was the most effective way to catch the Avatar). It becomes a standard action sequence, nothing really worth noting in terms of choreography outside of the quick fight over the well. Though the animation is a bit smoother, the quality of the action such as kinetic movement and sense of space aren’t really apparent here and falls into what a non-Avatar watcher might think a kid’s show fight would look like.
It’s a fine episode with some drawbacks, but still worth the watch.
Episode 16: The Deserter
Aang and the others slip into the Fire Nation town so he can observe firebending firsthand. But their plans go quickly wrong, and they must seek refuge.
“With great power comes great self-restraint.”
I think this is the third episode with Scott Menville (Robin from Teen Titans). Perhaps the showrunners need to practice some self-restraint as well.
It takes a while to get going, but the back half of this episode is really satisfying. Aang learns the ability to firebend, but accidentally hurts Katara in the process and thus needs to learn restraint and responsibility. It’s a nice growing chapter in Aang’s journey, even when the punches are pulled.
I’m not too big on the idea of Katara having a healing ability that healed her scars completely. Usually, in more mature stories, the scars would stay to remind the protagonist of how much more they need to learn or to haunt them with their past mistakes. Sure, it’s a kid show, but I think it still would have worked and really hooked kids in emotionally. Otherwise, it detracts from the lesson because, even if Aang irresponsibly hurts someone, Katara can just heal them then it’s all a-okay.
But, like I said, this is a kid show.
The fight between Aang and the general was fun and it was cool to see more of the Fire Nation and their customs. Though Katara feels a bit sidelined and mostly there to serve Aang’s progression, Sokka shines in a dramatic impasse with Aang.
It’s not a half-in-the-bag episode like I make it sound, but more of an 80-20. Worth the watch.