Like many awesome shows, Avatar (the good one) had a rocky start but some fantastic moments. And after watching this season, my hate (which seemed maxed out after the Happening) for MNS has grown.
Studying Supernatural has taught me that TV shows are under a tremendous time crunch, so they can’t always get things done writing wise as perfectly as a crew on a movie or a novel writer can. So some story weaknesses I can excuse. However, assuming everything I’ve heard about the upcoming two seasons (first disc should be here around Thurs) is true – season 1 of Avatar (the good one) could use a “remastering” to bring it more in line with the spectacular quality of seasons 2 & 3. The live movie could have been that remastering – cutting out some of the fat, tightening up scripts and plot threads – yet we find much of the movie wasting the spectacular chance it had!
Probably the biggest flaw of both the show and the movie is the northern water tribe, as it really needed extra time devoted to it, especially Sokka’s romance. We’re never shown what brings him and the princess together beyond puppy love – the fact that it’s mentioned that she is of marrying age (thus setting up that Sokka might marry her) just kind of adds a bit of tragedy to it (Romeo & Juliet all over again, really). There was so much plot potential involved just with those two and yet we get this “arranged marriage” conflict thrown in for… what? Pointless tragedy? We had seen that the southern water tribe was a vision of what would happen to the north if they fell to the fire nation. Sokka was a warrior (maybe the best – and that’s kind of sad – of the south) from that tribe, he had experience with the fire nation and he was a close friend of the Avatar (and probable future brother-in-law). Add in that Sokka’s father is involved in a military mission against the fire nation (one that seems like it should be a joint venture between north and south water tribes) and it seems like the leader of the north should have proposed the marriage of his daughter to Sokka as a political maneuver to strengthen the alliance between the two tribes. Then we can have conflict with the princess not wanting to accept an arranged marriage -but then she finds that she does kind of like Sokka… after that the rest of the episode writes itself.
The racial thing of show and movie… again that doesn’t bug me. In fact, I’d say MNS actually brought the movie more into align with the way things would have actually been. Those that live in very cold, dark climates tend to have lighter skin than those that live around equatorial, warm climates (heck, just all the working with fire should have darkened the fire nation’s skins). Again, I find it more of an outrage that the movie was so somber. The happiness and laughter of the show is wonderful – though sometimes to the detriment of what we might call the “arc mood”. Then we see MNS go off the other way into heavy angst territory and suddenly I start longing for the silliness.
While a bad narrative pace was a frequent occurrence (and I might do a writing talk on narrative pace soon), the most pervasive flaw of this season is what I like to call “happenstance grease”: the use of coincidences etc to move the plot along. Now some coincidences and happenstances is always acceptable for suspension of disbelief. After all, with a large enough population scattered around the world, if event X happens, then somebody is going to be affected by it. Why are Alice and Bob our protagonists? Because they just happened to be in the wrong/right place at the right/wrong time – it could have been anyone else. However a story that makes the intersection of characters and events more than just coincidence is always a stronger one. A bad example would be when Zuko and uncle Iroh just happen to run into hot bounty hunter chick. Why did they run into her? They got lucky and picked the bar she was going to be at. A great example is them running into the young earth bender. Obviously, Aang & Co are staying away from the fire nation to keep themselves alive – thus they stay quite a ways from a fire occupied town. A young earth bender wants to practice, but doing so is forbidden by the fire nation. So he goes quite a ways from the fire occupied town as well. But he just doesn’t run into Aang & pals, his practice makes a lot of noise, drawing them to him. When you put all the pieces together, the groups don’t just run into each other by luck, every piece fell into place perfectly to draw them together.
That is the best I can say about this season actually. Whenever it had a bad example (of whatever), you could usually find a great example (or two) as well. Even though the season missed some moments for plots or characters, it nonetheless had plenty of rich storylines and three dimensional characters.
The art design is just gorgeous and you could mute this show and still enjoy it.
All in all I liked this season and might even purchase it if the last two don’t let me down/anger me. So thanks to John C Wright, the Drunk Fox, and many other friends for recommending this series to me. At last I’m seeing why everyone has liked it so much.