Let’s suppose for a minute that fandom of Avatar is like a relationship, and each disc a stage in it.
First couple of discs would be the awkward small talk and “asking out” phase. A couple of missteps here and there but the pursuing lover is pretty cute and interesting so we overlook those.
Around the beginning of the second season, things turned serious. We got to meet the parents, the moments together were richer and deeper, things are definitely turning serious…
This disc? This disc here is where the show takes us on a lovely weekend getaway, sweeps us off our feet and proposes to us with the biggest ass diamond ring.
Chapter 16. Appa’s Lost Days – Now don’t lynch me but… I was never very fond of Appa. Not because he’s a multiton beast that flies – I can accept it as a part of my suspension of disbelief (it’s his maneuverability I had issues with). I just generally felt he was a bit of a crutch for the writers, a ready made deus-ex-machina that had to be generally “taken care of” before the stories could proceed.
So here we have a feature story with Appa… and way to go writers, you got me to care about him. One thing definitely helping this episode is its almost Samurai Jack style of storytelling in keeping the dialog to a minimum. Here Appa becomes more than just a prop. It also did well in establishing how long Aang’s been without him – and I don’t just mean by the caption at the beginning saying “four weeks ago”. Up until now it hasn’t been clear just how long the group’s been without the big bison (I had thought maybe a couple of weeks), but by the episode’s end, it feels like it’s been four weeks without him.
17. Lake Laogai – It’s at this episode I realize just how much of a geek I am. Hey, that rich patron of Iroh sounds familiar… Why it’s Kurt Fuller! The villainous Long Fang? Duh! It’s Clancy Brown of the Kurgan (from Highlander), Gorrath from Megas XLR and the DCAU’s Lex Luthor! Who needs casts lists?
So… Iroh’s dream is to have his own tea shop… You know what I wonder? Whether it was ALWAYS his dream to own a tea shop (even when he was in line for the throne) or if it was a change in his character leading from his services in the war and the lost of his son. Also, it was great to see Iroh chew out Zuko. I don’t mind angsty characters in and of themselves, but there comes a point where they do need to
It’s also at this point I notice that it seems like every episode is going to include a joke relating to Toph’s blindness – but I commend the show for demonstrating how to do it with good taste (and of course, from the joke, Toph goes off with Sokka because he his the Pimpking).
And kudos to the show for demonstrating how mature it is with the on screen death of Jet. Though part of me was yelling at Katara, “Hey, I bet you wished you learned all those healing techniques back at the north pole now!” (that episode still kind of bugs me).
18. the Earth King – The opening? THAT is how it’s done! While I love political intrigue and head games, after all the frustration, eventually the audience and characters need a release, a chance to cut loose and kick ass. Also, the scene is how I wish a lot of scenes with Appa flying had been done – he maneuvers slow, Aang uses his powers to deflect/cover/etc their flight.
As with all animated shows, Phil LaMarr finally shows up, voicing the earth king and the writers show off their skill by bringing up the giant drill again. Well done writers.
19. the Guru – A wonderful set up for the mind blowing finale, this episode was packed with goodness (though there’s one line where you can tell Iroh is clearly not voiced by Mako), from the inspiration for a Ty Lee + Azula shipping to a Star Wars shout out. The true highlight was watching all the plot threads come together and collide in a very organic way. Katara learning that the fire nation is inside the city is a wonderful example to aspiring writers on how you can move the plot forward without making this contrived.
Two things did bug me. 1) Zuko gets sick and goes on a head trip just because of an identity crisis? Really? Other than that hits him with -5 badass points, why? They were down in a dank, filthy dungeon last episode, was it that much trouble to just say Zuko picked up something down there? 2) Maybe this is a culture thing, but I don’t get the dilemma over the Guru’s command to “Let Katara go.” Is it permanently? Is it just while Aang is in the Avatar State?
Toph mastering metal was pretty well done but… how are those two guys supposed to get out? It really looks like she just consigned them to a long, slow death.
20. the Crossroads of Destiny – Wow just… wow. I heard this conclusion to the 2nd season was mind blowing but… man. Fuel for shippers? Check. The funniest scene of the series so far? (where Toph and the others meet Iroh) Check. Samurai Jack getting interrogated? Check. Best line of the season? (“The secret to both [good tea and good advice] is aging.”) Check. Iroh kicking ass? Check.
This episode really does make you wish that Iroh would be the one to join with Aang and teach him fire bending (though it won’t happen). Zuko’s motivations have been very unclear the last two episodes – in both of them I kept waiting for “the other shoe to drop” and reveal that he’s planning something or other. So far, no dice, but the show’s proved itself enough up to now that I’m very hopeful that all will be explained soon.
I was disappointed that Toph was able to bend metal so easily. Up until now, part of the explanation for the fire nation’s victory over everyone else was their mastery over something nobody could manipulate (metal). Now, they have someone who can manipulate it as easily as… well all the other benders, so is Aang even needed? Let him and some water benders provide cover for Toph (as fireballs from the sky could hurt her) and the girl should just steamroll over the fire nation. It will be interesting to see how the writers try to keep her “balanced” (or if they’ll just try to ignore the implications of this).
Season 3 is in hand… should be an interesting new year…