Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: Book One, Episodes 8 and 9
From last week’s cliffhanger episode, we zoom on a flying bison to “Winter Solstice, Part 2.” And the following episode, “The Waterbending Scroll.” Which has pirates.
Avatar Roku (Winter Solstice, Part 2)
We start the episode with Aang determined to leave Katara and Sokka behind when he ventures into the Fire Nation to commune with the spirit of Avatar Roku. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. They’re not gonna let anyone get away with self-sacrificing BS, dude. They have their shit far too together. Appa’s pleased!
Immediately after Team Avatar sets off, Zuko appears at the village a day late and a dollar short, pushing Cheekbones and asking him “Seen the Avatar lately? [Oh man, Zuko, that was so clever and quippy of you. Yes, thank you Zuko, I know.]” Iroh is far from happy that his bonehead of a nephew is planning to pursue the Avatar into Fire Nation waters, seeing as he’s been banished and will totally be arrested if someone catches him. Man, what did Zuko do that his own father would arrest him? Is it that bad, or is Fire Lord Ozai really just that much of a dick? I’m guessing the latter. But Zuko is determined to risk it, because
But to get into the Fire Nation, both Zuko and Team Avatar have to make their way past a Fire Nation blockade that happens to be commanded by Commander Assbasket (née Zhao). Assbasket tries to shoot Appa down, and he doesn’t much care if he happens to kill Zuko in the process. Zuko’s ship is damaged, but he’s determined to go on all the same. See gif above. Aang, however, in a thrilling scene, flies far above the barricade and manages to avoid all the fire missiles… but Sokka falls and starts plummeting toward a watery death. This is why the flying bison needs seatbelts! Aang catches him in the nick of time, and Momo gets a fish out of the deal.
Aang uses AIRBENDING POWER to break up a missile that was going to roast them, toast them, and burn them to a crisp, and they get through the blockade easy as you please.
Zhao Assbasket lets Zuko through as well, reasoning that a giant Fire Nation ship is easier to follow than a flying bison, and he can always arrest them both when they get to wherever it is they’re going. Iroh gets it, because he’s not an idiot, and Zuko doesn’t, because he kind of is (I kid because I love). Because he’s not entirely absent of sense, he sets off on another ship, leaving Iroh to take the main one off somewhere else as a decoy.
Team Avatar gets to Crescent Island in time for Aang to spirit bond with Roku, which would mean things are mostly OK for them if there weren’t 15 minutes left in the 23-minute episode. They’re immediately set upon by Fire Sages, who used to serve the Avatar until Roku went AWOL and Fire Lord Ozai demanded their loyalty for himself. There’s one good Fire Sage, named Shyu, who remains loyal to the Avatar and helps Aang and his buddies get to the Fire Nation Sanctuary.
Only problem is that the door can only be opened by either a fully realized Avatar—which Aang ain’t—or with the simultaneous fire blasts of five Fire Sages. Sounds bad? Nah. Sokka’s just going to blow the fucker up with some home-made bombs. It doesn’t work, but Katara realizes (yeah sibling teamwork!) that it looks like it worked, so they can trick the Fire Sages into opening the door to the Sanctuary, giving Aang a chance to sneak in. Zuko shows up at the last minute and captures Katara, Sokka, and Shyu, but other than that the plan works like gangbusters. Aang finally gets his long-awaited chat with Roku, who kicks things off by asking where the fuck he’s been all this time. We cut away from the scene before hearing Aang’s response, but I’m going to assume it’s “Well I was frozen in an iceberg for 100 years, geez, lay off my jock!”
Meanwhile Zhao shows up outside the Sanctuary too, because Zuko using Iroh as
was actually a really fucking obvious trick. Zhao’s going to arrest Zuko. He’s going to arrest Katara and Sokka. He’s going to arrest Shyu. He’s going to arrest Aang. He’s going to arrest
After all the crap Aang’s been through, I’m pleased to report that Roku actually has some helpful tips for our boy on how to be the Avatar. LOL no. Roku contacted Aang to let him know that a freaky deaky comet’s going to come along and supersize Fire Lord Ozai’s power by the end of the summer, so Aang really has to learn fire-, water-, and earthbending and defeat Ozai before then, kthx. Aang asks Roku “ASHUOIUHCSUIAWAHIUH WELL WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE ANY FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS?,” and Roku responds “Well I’m a part of you so I guess you’ll figure it out, IDK.”
Cryptic wise man Roku is a dick.
He does, however, do Aang a solid by helping him defeat the baddies waiting for him to leave the temple. Zuko does the smart thing and runs before the Fire Temple turns into the world’s most intense game of the floor is lava.
Appa and Momo rescue Aang, Katara, and Sokka in the nick of time, and Momo even takes the time to snag a stylin’ Fire Nation hat. Zhao, his dreams of arresting Zuko and Aang crushed, decides to arrest all the Fire Sages instead. They remind him that Shyu was actually the only Fire Sage who helped the Avatar, but he’s all “Do I look like a give a crispy fried hoot?”
The Waterbending Scroll
Piraaaaatttteeesssss! Katara being smaaaaaaart! Ahem.
After the last ep, the pressure is on for Aang to figure out waterbending, and fast. Team Avatar is still weeks from the North Pole, but there’s no reason they can’t take a quick detour so Katara can instruct Aang in Waterbending 101. Only Aang picks up things in seconds that it took Katara months to learn. Aw, Kat, don’t be sad. Aang is literally a supernatural force of crazy-talented benderingness. In the process of flawlessly executing a move that even Katara hasn’t figured out yet, Aang accidentally washes all their supplies down the river. Which is no big deal, ’cause they’re near a market and can take a pit stop to buy new stuff.
Guess where Zuko and Iroh happen to be going?
Go on, guess.
The course of the USS Daddy Issues has been averted, which causes Zuko to go all “OMG! MUTINY! WHO DID THE THING?!” until Iroh tells him to stow his roll, he just needs to go to (wait for it) the market to replace an extremely important lotus tile for his game. Which Zuko takes extremely well.
You could say he’s hot-headed.
In the market, Aang spends one of their last coins on a broken whistle, which is totally a not-broken bison whistle, DON’T I FEEL MORE SUPERIOR AND INTELLECTUAL THAN THIS KID’S SHOW ON NICKELODEON? A sleazy used car salesman type tries to get Team Avatar to come into his shop of exotic curios, and Aang is like “Hell yeah! Exotic curious are my jam!” Turns out the used car salesman is a pirate, and everything he’s selling—which includes the waterbending scroll that gives this episode its name—have been *ahem* liberated from their original owners. Aang tries to haggle with the lead pirate (who has a lizard bird) for the scroll, but surprisingly enough it doesn’t work.
So Katara just up and steals the scroll from the pirates.
Because she is a queen like that.
The pirates chase them, and who gets caught in the fray but CABBAGE MAN! I did not know he would show up again, and I am pleased that he did.
Our heroes manage to escape back to the pool, and Aang remarks that he used to look up to pirates, but man, they’re total assholes. Which I love, because every time I see something Pirates of the Caribbean or Talk Like a Pirates Day-related there’s a tiny voice in the back of my head saying “Yeah, the hats and the rebelling against authority are cool, but IRL pirates raped and murdered so many people,” and not even gazing at pictures of pirate James Norrington (for *cough* a while) can quiet it. Now that Katara’s stolen the scroll there’s even more waterbending training, and Katara, my competitive steals-from-pirates cupcake, loses her shit when Aang picks all the new moves up in like 0.2 seconds.
I absolutely feel for her here. It’s not just plain ol’ frustration at Aang being better than her. Katara’s the only waterbender left in her village, so there has to be a sense of responsibility there to be the very best, the best there ever was, in to protect her people, similar to what Sokka feels about his fighting. And we’ve gotten hints from previous episodes that the women in the South Pole Water Tribe do the sewing and cooking—traditional tasks assigned to females, basically—while the men hunt and fish and fight. Katara’s determination to be a kick-ass waterbender is its own form a rebellion, a way to prove herself as being capable of doing things people don’t think she can. Smash that patriarchy, girl. Anyway, Katara apologizes to Aang right away—well, after a truly impressive lip wibble…
I am going to gif this one day, and it is going to be amazing.
…and promises to back off.
Back at the marketplace Zuko is being a pissy little asshat, as per usual, until he and Iroh go exotic curio shopping and overhear that the Avatar’s in town. They pair up with the pirates to form a search party, and Zuko yet again displays his actually pretty high level of tactical intelligence when he points out, No, pirates, we don’t need to search the forest, I’m pretty sure if they stole a waterbending scroll they would be near water. For all I joke, dude’s not an idiot—he just lets his emotions get the best of his common sense sometimes. Calm your mind, Zuko.
The baddies come across Katara, who’s snuck away to get in some waterbending practice. And look, for all she apologizes later for getting captured, and thus getting Aang and Sokka captured… I can’t really blame her for getting in some scroll time when she said she wouldn’t. Granted, she should’ve kept to the buddy system, because banished Fire Nation prince hunting them and all.
Now it’s time for Sokka’s “Holy shit, you are really smart” moment (hey, I have a thing for shows where people don’t make stupid decisions—and you might not think so to look at it, but Sleepy Hollow totally fits that bill, too)—he turns the pirates against Zuko by convincing them that they should just sell Aang on the black market themselves instead of handing him over to their brand spanking new ally. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. In the ensuing scuffle Katara, Sokka, and Aang get themselves untied, and the scroll keeps getting passed between Momo and the freaky lizard bird thing. Katara and Aang use the power of waterbending to hijack a freaking pirate ship, which is pretty amazing. So the pirates hijack Zuko’s ship. And then moon him.
Zuko, my poor, occasionally pathetic French baguette.
When Katara’s not overthinking it she actually manages the waterbending move that was giving her so much trouble—the water whip—without difficulty, and she uses it to kick some pirate ass. Aang and Sokka do their part as well, I guess. Then, whoops, there’s a waterfall. Katara and Aang use waterbending to turn the ship around, but there are still pirates behind them, so… that’s not great. Aang uses that bison whistle he purchased to get a last-minute rescue from Appa. The pirates are defeated, Zuko’s temporarily stranded, Iroh had the lotus tile in his sleeve the whole time, and Katara’s learned a valuable lesson: It’s not right to steal… unless it’s from pirates.
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