Nate watches Avatar #3.1-3.5

A new season, a new adventure.  It’s been a long time coming, let’s dive into the fire nation…

Chapter 1. Awakening -This wasn’t a bad start as I enjoy well done time skips and we get to see a lot of beloved characters return.  I’m actually curious: do you think that was Zuko’s earth girl in the background there?  A few things did bug me, though:

  1. So Toph bends metal easily now, but the metal apparently has to be connected (she can’t bend anything with too much air or water between her and it I’m guessing).  She hears that the inspectors are suspicious and… dumps those guys in the water?  If Toph is so powerful, why doesn’t she just use the metal bridge connecting the boats to disable or sink the other one?  The should could have saved themselves a plot hole if they made the plank wood.
  2. How did they find Aang after he ran?  Oh, and bringing Appa along was a bad idea.  Why?  We’ll see…

All in all, a pretty good start that brings more depths to the characters  and gives Zuko a chance to challenge Sokka for the crown of the pimp king…

2. the Headband – Here we see the character completely enter the realm of fanservice – with Katara apparently deciding she wants to challenge Ty Lee.  Now, what I’m wondering is, how did Toph get dressed?  No, think about it a second.  Blind people usually have a system they store their clothes in since they can’t tell size and color, obviously.  Toph walks to a scene where clothes of another culture (so we know she can’t even guess at what items fit which style, like she theoretically could in an earth kingdom town) are hanging above the ground on a wire (so she shouldn’t even be able to tell they are there) and just grabs some pieces without pause.  The show’s been so good about portraying her blindness accurately, why mess up here?  Especially when you could get some cute jokes and scenes of her (or Sokka – wink wink) getting help to find them and put them on (seriously, I can’t believe she beat Katara out of the “dressing room”).  There are few things I hate more than wasted potential.

The rest of the episode was pretty good and I liked that the writers took a moment to portray the fire nation’s culture and history, showing us that the people are a bit more three dimensional.  The dance was pretty cute (though how do Aang and Katara keep from accidentally bending while dancing?) and I liked the Spartacus ending.  A really good filler episode.

3.  the Painted Lady – Great, another one.  The worst part?  Oh I have so much more to complain about than Ryan did.  Up until now, I’ve enjoyed Avatar (the good one) because it’s one of those shows that the more you think about it, the richer it gets.  This episode?  The more you think about it, the dumber it gets.  Yes, I know there are a lot of possible excuses about this being an alternate world and all but no – those won’t fly here, because we’ve seen this stuff implied or hinted at before – there’s no excuse.

First of all, we see efforts to hide Appa.  What’s the problem here?  Because Sokka keeps wanting to bring up this schedule that they have.  What does that have to do with anything?  Because Appa can fly!  Even though he’s not a jet (despite some earlier episodes implying otherwise), he should still take (at most) a week to go straight to the fire nation capital.  If things are that rushed, the group can go straight to the capital and camp out there until the Day of Black Sun.  This is just… why I hated them bringing Appa along this time.  If the writers had left him behind, and made the characters go by foot or river to the fire capital, none of this would be as much filler and the stories would have more of an organic flow.

By episode end, we find out Katara was doing the superhero thing and – in disguise – dropping off food for the village.  Where did she get the food?  What’s that?  A line saying she got it from the factory?  Where did they get it?  No, let’s back up further.

Why is the factory there?

Last I checked, factories (especially steam punk ones) require a lot of employees to run.  Where did these employees come from?  The village, you say?  But we never saw anyone commute, nor did we see anybody express sadness at losing their work when the place was destroyed.  They imported the employees perhaps?  WHY THEN DID THEY BUILD THE DAMN FACTORY SO BLOODY CLOSE TO THE VILLAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE?  Because the thing ran on tears?

So, all the employees must be staying at the factory, right?  Why then didn’t any of them react when Katara and Aang brought down the place at episode end?  These two benders are wrecking the [temporary] home of these people, all of them slept through it? (we see no reaction till the next morning)  Or did the two benders just bring down the place on top of a lot of sleeping people and commit an involuntary mass manslaughter?

Again, where is the factory getting its food?  From the town?  Then why aren’t the employees getting sick, or even having 2nd thoughts about what they’re doing (“You know boss, I don’t like the two headed fish”)?  Are they going out and hunting/scavenging for food?  If yes, why couldn’t Aang & Co?  If yes, why not build the factory downstream from the village in the first place so you can hire the village to do that for you in the first place??? (which is what would have happened in reality)

And again, what was the factory making?  We’re never told or shown.  I’m going to believe that it was making incubator units for all the premature babies born in the fire nation – that’s right, Aang and Katara just killed children!

No, apparently after the last episode worked so hard to make the fire nation more complex and well-rounded as a people, they decide to do this one establishing them as evil incarnate (as that’s the only reason for the factory being where it is).  Forget the other two (which was their biggest sin: forgettable) – this, THIS is the worse episode of Avatar (the good one).

You know how this episode should have been? (assuming all other episodes remain the same)

  • Aang and Co make camp.  The next morning, they find Appa is ill (for real).  Upon investigating, they realize the river is badly polluted.
  • Heading upstream, Aang & Co find the factory and the nearby village (upstream from the factory – and bustling with all the economic activity the factory brought there).
  • Mingling about with everybody, they discover that the village was once a poor, sad little town until the factory came and revitalized everything.  Although uncomfortable about the pollution, Aang (encouraged by Katara) decides that they shouldn’t upend these people’s lives.  They’ll just get some medicine for Appa and be on their way.
  • Sokka, being suspicious, investigates the factory itself (being totally ninja like).  He discovers that this place is making weapons for the war!
  • Talking around town, Aang & Co discover that the people there are only vaguely aware of the war going on.  They mostly think they’re building weapons for defensive purposes, and the war is more of an abstract concept to them.  It’s happening – sort of – somewhere – out there.
  • Aang is now torn.  Sokka advises him to tear down the factory as it will help the war in the long run.  Katara wants to leave the people alone and not disrupt their lives.  Aang at last decides that, since they are at war and the factory is polluting, they must take it out.
  • Cue action sequence.
  • Aang & Co sneak away as the village watches in horror the factory burning.  The next morning, everyone’s arguing or crying over what to do, when we see one of the people pick up a net, think about it, then head out onto the water.

See?  You can do environmental messages without being stupid.

4. Sokka’s Master – After the last episode, almost anything following would feel like the complete work of William Shakespeare.

“The sword is an extension of yourself… like an extra long, really sharp arm.” –Robert Patrick

Pardon me, my head just exploded from the meta.

All in all a good episode.  Part of me thinks a meteor of that size should have left a larger crater but – eh.  My biggest complaint is that Sokka’s training takes one day.  Otherwise the training isn’t too bad as far as sword training goes in media (which is a low standard) but one day?  Of course, the master, Piandao is now my new favorite second character and-
Oh, looks like Iroh’s buffed out.

No, I did not squee like a fangirl (I squee’d when Sokka got a white lotus title).  Let’s move on.

5. the Beach – Zuko, and the evil girl trio go to the beach.

It’s like the writers just threw up their hands and said “screw it, we’ll give them what they want”.  And then they drew in the civilians on the island to represent the fans.  Watch this episode and tell me I’m wrong.  My poor brain can’t handle all this meta at once!

Two things I will point out (that won’t make me sound like an ordinary straight male perv)

1) Wasn’t the bit at the end just a little too rushed in some places?  It kind of came off like everyone was bipolar.

2) Zuko breaks up with Mai because she doesn’t have any “passion”.  I only want to point out, that for the last few years, Zuko has been traveling with uncle Iroh, one who is – without question – one of the most passionate people in the Avatar-verse.

I’ll let you fill in your own subtext.  Time to get to the next disc…

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5 thoughts on “Nate watches Avatar #3.1-3.5

  1. But we never saw anyone commute, nor did we see anybody express sadness at losing their work when the place was destroyed. They imported the employees perhaps? WHY THEN DID THEY BUILD THE DAMN FACTORY SO BLOODY CLOSE TO THE VILLAGE IN THE FIRST PLACE? Because the thing ran on tears?

    Ease of building, water to run the equipment and existing transport systems for supplies.

    At a guess, they did what most factories do and had barracks far enough away from the building that anybody sleeping while it was working wouldn’t be woken up. Ditto for food. Probably a military compound making sensitive equipment.

    Other than that… I think their idea was to make the point that the fire nation people are abused.

    • Uh… I don’t think you’re disagreeing with me there. 😉 Rivers are long, so the factor could have built for ease, water and transport almost anywhere further up or down stream. Making it so close to a village transforms the fire nation from being realistically evil to cartoonishly evil.

      And let me reiterate: I’m mostly disappointed because it was lazy. Moving the factory downriver and making it a primary employer of the village makes the dilemma and story more challenging and compelling. (also more sensible, as if you’re going to move people far enough away for barracks & shipping food, why not just move them to a nearby, already established village? It’d be like building a car factory next door to a MacDonalds in Kansas then insisting on shipping in Maine Lobster every day for the employees to eat – at some point things don’t make sense lol)

      • Making it so close to a village transforms the fire nation from being realistically evil to cartoonishly evil.

        Oh, it’s still cartoonishly evil, but only because we’ve seen they COULD make a new road to down river from the village, or could make flat places anywhere. It would just take more effort.
        Perhaps sociopathically evil is a better way of phrasing it– sadly, some people will only pay attention to how easy it makes things for them, so the big flat place that’s on an established road and has a river would be very appealing to a central planner.

        It can be explained as being lazy, or simply not caring if the spot that’s logistically perfect as it stands would put someone else at risk. Fits with the whole Azula-burning-people-alive thing.

        As far as food goes– it really depends; these days, mostly yes, if they went with the more realistic, heck no. That village looked subsistence level, so there wouldn’t be much for them to buy, and if you’re the kind of guy who manipulates his wife to kill his father, you’re probably not going to risk your workers in an important building to “misplaced” sympathies when you can simply have food packed into the supplies for whatever they’re making.

        A lot of the cartoon villain stuff makes sense when you think of Ozai as a hyper-manipulative psychopath.

      • No, not really; I’ve seen it too many times. At least the original showed Katara growing up– kind of like the arc for Kira in DS9 where she was “turned into” a Cardassian and kept in contact with her “father” afterwards.

        It doesn’t get into 0% approval rating– it is pretty much historically accurate, although cleaned up for a kid’s show.
        Big Ruler does stuff to make all his second tier rulers happy, and it doesn’t really matter if some of the little people several tiers down get run over in the process. It might matter if they had, say, the internet, but they’re soaked in propaganda.

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