What is up, my friends, readers, and colleagues? Remember that time I watched Battlestar Galactica for the first time and recapped it? Yeah. That was fun, if infuriating near the end. Starting this week I’m doing the same thing with Avatar: The Last Airbender, which Susana’s been trying to get me to watch for… I think it’s coming on two years now. Fine, Susana. We’re starting with the pilot, as one does, but first, here’s what I think I’m getting into with this show:
Earth! Fire! Wind! Water! Heart!. AND EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE FIRE NATION ATTACKED. There’s a cool blind girl who’s the first metalbender. Aang’s fighting style is nope. Zuko’s obsessed with honor and eventually becomes a good guy? CABBAGES. There’s a stealth badass uncle and wunderbar grumpy (middle-aged?) ladies maybe? One of TV history’s best bottle episodes. Spinoff Legend of Korra is a disappointment for love triangle reasons?
And there was going to be a movie at some point, but for some reason it fell through. Nooooope. Never happened.
Let’s get to the pilot, aka
The Boy in the Iceberg
The opening narration tells us things used to be hunky dory in the land of ‘benders, but EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE FIRE NATION ATTACKED. She said the thing! The only one who could bring balance to the Force was the Avatar, but he noped out like a jackass for some reason. Katara, Lady Voiceover, tells us that while everyone else thinks the situation is completely FUBAR, she has confidence the Avatar was reborn and will return some day.
♫ I believe that children are our future. ♫
We then meet Katara and her brother Sokka, who were left behind to take care of their South Pole Water Tribe when everyone who’s not a kid or an old person went to do War Stuff. Katara’s a waterbender. Sokka’s not. Sokka is, however, a little punk. I think I like him. Ditto Katara, who calls out her brother for a sexist comment literally within the first four minutes of the show. I’m digging this already.
The power of Katara’s sibling bickering raaaaage causes an iceberg to go all kersplooey, and from that kersplooey iceberg comes… a rock salt lamp! Ooooooh. Inside which Aang is both literally and metaphorically chilling.
Katara immediately rushes to help him, while Sokka is all creepy kid in an iceberg maybe we should not. Katara busts Aang out anyway, and there’s a giant column of light and some seals.
Spotting the light is one Zuko, who immediately wants to go capture the Avatar even though his uncle just wants to play his tile game and finish his beverage, dammit. Zuko, I think you do need some calming jasmine tea. He’s only had one scene, and already I can smell the daddy issues on this kid.
Aang, freed from his iceberg after what we later learn is effectively a century-long coma that caused him to miss all the FIRE NATION ATTACKING, turns to Katara and immediately asks her
HEARTS IN MY EEEEEEEEYES.
Aang has: A pet flying bison named Appa. Aang does not have: A single clue about what’s going on. But he doesn’t care, because he really, really wants to go penguin sledding with his new crush Katara. Why did no one tell me Aang is a huge dork?!
Aang offers Katara and Sokka a ride back to their village, and on the way Katara quizzes him about whether he knew the Avatar. Aang says no, even though there’s clearly something he’s hiding. In a flashback/dream sequence we see Aang and Appa flying through a storm when they capsize and Aang’s body arrows go all freaky-deaky-glowy before he uses some airbender mojo to encase himself in a protective iceberg. Back at the village Aang meets Katara and Sokka’s, like, thirteen neighbors, the most important of whom (to me, anyway), is Grandma. She’s wonderfully deadpan about the stray her grandkids dragged in. “Oh, an airbender. The only one anyone’s seen in a hundred years. It’s a little weird I guess.”
The only one less than pleased about Aang’s arrival is Sokka, who clearly has some masculine “Grarrrrgh I’m the man of the village grarrrrrgh I have to protect the women and children from outsiders grarrrrrrrrgh” power trip going on. But I’m confident that he’ll come around. Also, him insulting Aang’s staff/pop-up-air-glider because “WTF, you can’t even stab anything with it” made me giggle.
Back on the firebender ship Zuko—who has to find and capture the airbender because of HONOR
—insists that his Uncle teach him advanced firebending forms even though he doesn’t have the basics down yet. Respect your elders, Zuko. Everyone on this show’s a little punk. Uncle Iroh agrees but says he has to finish his lunch first. I like this man’s priorities. (Also, does anyone else think it’s weird that the Fire Nation’s Big Thing is ships? As opposed to, say, the Water Nation? Ships are mighty burnable objects to have around during fire lessons, all I’m sayin’. I’m having flashbacks to the Battle of the Blackwater.)
Back at the village Sokka’s trying to pull a Shang on toddlers while Aang finally, finally gets to go penguin sledding with Katara, who in exchange for teaching him to how to catch a penguin will receive bending lessons. I think Aang got the better end of that deal. He points out that it’s not an optimal mentor situation, them being different types of benders and all. Also, hel-lo, he has a flying bison, so he can totally give her a lift to the other Water Tribe to search out a proper Water Yoda.
The pair of them come across the wreckage of a Fire Nation ship, which Katara doesn’t want to explore because it might be booby trapped. Aang convinces her “let go of fear,” and then guess what? The ship is booby trapped. I might be getting ahead of myself, but I think everyone should listen to Katara all the time. They manage to escape, but not before a beacon goes up and alerts Zuko to the airbender’s location.
(How does Zukko even know for sure that’s who it is, anyway? He sees a pair of beacons in the sky and immediately is like “Welp that’s definitely the airbender, gonna go catch him.” When Uncle Iroh was playing his tile game earlier he was futzing with air tiles, which might just be a fun little Easter egg… or there might be a more specific prophecy than just “The Last Airbender will show up and he’ll also be the Avatar.” Or maybe all that’s irrelevant, and I’m just supposed to go with Zuko knowing where to look. Whatever. I’m really enjoying the show so far.)
Because I want to avoid being spoiled if at all possible, comments on this post are locked. [Edit: Well, in theory anyway. WordPress is being weird.] Any spoilery discussion can be directed to Facebook; if there’s anything non-spoilery about the recaps you want to say to me, you can hit me up on Twitter. For anyone who wants to watch along with me, starting week I’ll be recapping two episodes every Tuesday.