Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: Book One, “The Fortuneteller,” “Bato of the Water Tribe”
"Can your 'science' explains why it rains?" "Yes! Yes it can!"
Did the two Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes I watched this week make me want to throw myself to the ground sobbing as much as last week’s “The Storm” did? I’m still not over it, guys. ZUUUUKKKOOOOOO.
Ooh! Oooh! I’ve seen this gifset! The eternal road trip continues. One of the underlying plots for this episode is that Aang is in loooOOOooOOOOve with Katara, who doesn’t see him in a romantic way because he’s a 12-year-old bald cupcake. Smash the concept of the friendzone, Avatar. Smash it to the ground!
In tried and true ATLA fashion, Team Avatar comes across what’s probably at this point the show’s hundredth Generic Old Dude, who’s being attacked by… …wait, what? By a PLATYPUS BEAR?
Generic Old Dude is completely unconcerned, because the fortuneteller Aunt Woo told him that he would be safe on his journey. And look, he was! Appa scared away the platypus bear! Aang and Katara are instantly intrigued by the fortuneteller, while Sokka is more skeptical. Outvoted, Sokka trails along as Aang and Katara go to get their fortunes told. Oh, and he makes this face at turkey geese. Dude, you just saw a platypus bear. I don’t know what your problem is.
Aunt Woo’s assistant
Pippi Longstockings Meng instantly falls for Aang, in part because Aunt Woo told her her One True Love would be someone with big ears.
Katara, meanwhile, gets told that the love of her life will be a powerful bender. Aang, listening in, is all “Eyyyyyyy. I’m a powerful bender.” Sokka’s fortune is that his future will be “full of struggle and anguish, most of it self-inflicted.” WRONG. Sokka’s future is full of happiness and joy. In a splendid moment, Aang is told by a super-dramatic Aunt Woo that he’ll be involved in a gimongous battle between the forces of good and evil, the outcome of which will decide the fate of humanity as we know it, and Aang’s response is “Yeah, I know. Now tell me if I’ll ever get a girlfriend.” So Woo tells him that he will if he “stays true to his heart,” even though she’s clearly just making it up to make him feel better.
Woo evidently has some psychic powers, but the villagers take it too far when they rely on her to tell them whether the volcano hovering on their horizon will explode that year, when they could just… y’know. Check themselves. To be sure. Everyone’s happy when Woo delivers the news that yay, they won’t all die!, except for ever-skeptical Sokka.
While Katara’s gotten hooked on Woo’s sweet, sweet fortunetelling magic, Sokka goes around town trying to convince people that Woo’s a quack. He gets some evidence on his side when he and Aang happen to see that the volcano’s about to blow. Oh, there’s also a subplot where Aang asks Sokka for relationship advice—sweet summer child—and Sokka, thinking Aang is into Meng, tells him to play hard-to-get. So Aang tries to be a smooth mofo with Katara and it just DOES NOT WORK.
To convince the townspeople that they really need to evacuate ASAP, Aang has the pretty damn brilliant idea to waterbend the clouds into the giant cosmic signal for “YOU ARE ALL ABOUT TO BE KILLED BY AN EXPLODING VOLCANO,” which happens to be… the Dark Mark from Harry Potter. Or. Well. A skull. Remarkably unsubtle there, Ms. Woo.
Before we get to that, there’s a sweet scene between Meng and Aang where they both address the fact that she likes him, but he doesn’t like her, and they just… go on their separate ways. Aang’s crush on Katara isn’t brought up again, either, except at the end where Sokka points out that Aang’s a powerful bender and Katara’s all 0_0. The takeaway is basically “Being in unrequited like sucks, but whaddaya gonna do? People feel what they feel.” There are zero implications of “Man, Katara really should like Aang back. Look how nice he is!” It appears the show took pains to avoid that by making Aang both the crusher and the crushee—Katara viewing him as a little brother makes him feel bad, but he also experiences the awkwardness of liking someone just as a friend when they like you romantically. I have come to expect this sort of thing from this show already, but all the same—Avatar, you deserve this:
We finish up with Sokka rallying the town to create a trench to stop the lava from burninating everything. It works, but only because Aang steps in and uses his ‘bending skills to harden the lava. Teamwork, yay! Woo tells Aang a happy lesson about reshaping his own destiny, and Team Avatar goes on their way. To meet…
Bato of the Water Tribe
Bato! Oh here’s the sadness missing from that last episode. Baby Sokka. Guilt-ridden Aang.
Aang, Katara, and Sokka come across the remnants of a battle between the Fire Nation and the Water Tribe. And not just any Water Tribe… the one Katara and Sokka happen to come from. Their dad is long gone, but they do come across their honorary uncle Bato, who was injured and had to stay behind to be cared for by some perfume-making nuns. There’s also a flashback to tearful baby Sokka begging his dad to let him go with him off to war.
And then there’s THIS LADY:
Her name is June. She’s a bounty hunter. She rides a beastie that can find anyone based on scent. She arrives on Zuko’s ship and tears the place up looking for a stowaway who—just to emphasize—managed to sneak onto an official Fire Nation navy vessel. Zuko, babe. You need to tighten up your security a little. Zuko follows June to a bar, where she’s pummeling Ryu from Street Fighter in an arm wrestling competition.
He demands that, hey, you kinda dinged up my ride a little back there—do you have insurance? You didn’t even leave a note. Instead of paying him, Zuko offers to let her settle the debt by using Katara’s necklace to sniff out the Avatar. June’s all “That’s sweet, but no.” It’s only when Iroh—who thinks June is the best thing ever—offers to actually pay her cash money that the Avatar officially gets a bounty hunter on his tail.
Meanwhile Katara and Sokka are bonding with Bato, and Aang feels ignored. It’s parallel to Zuko’s storyline: Awesome new person comes onto the scene. Traveling companion(s) think(s) they’re the best 5ever. Third wheel gets sad. Aang gets even sadder when Bato says he’s supposed to get a message from Papa Sokka (I KILL ME) about a rendezvous point any day now. A wistful Katara and Sokka decline the invitation to go along, explaining that they need to get Aang to the South Pole Water Tribe ASAP… but not before Aang slumps off into the sunset to go be emo over Katara and Sokka leaving him to go be with their real family.
So of course Aang’s the one who sees the messenger when he rides up on his weird chicken thing to give Bato the map to the rendezvous point. And then, despite me shrieking at my computer “No, Aang, don’t!”, he crumples up the map and then proceeds to not give it to Bato. I understand his reasons—he doesn’t want Katara and Sokka to leave—but man, that is a shit move. And he knows it, too. You can see the guilt eating away at him. I kind of love that Avatar had their sweet, fluffy main character do that.
The next morning a still mapless Bato reminisces with Sokka about “ice dodging,” a coming-of-age ritual involving steering a ship through icebergs that Sokka never got to participate in because of his dad going away to war. So Bato decides he can do the ritual now. There aren’t any icebergs on hand, but there are scary-looking rocks, and there are two people to help Sokka steer his ship. Aang’s position, a solemn Bato informs him, will be one of trust.
With Katara and Aang’s help, Sokka kicks butt at ice dodging. Awwww, he’s a man now! Aang cracks when Bato starts talking about how trustworthy he was, though, and comes clean about the map. Sokka, understandably, is pissed, Katara slightly less visibly so, and they decide to leave Aang behind and go meet up with their dad after all.
But it doesn’t last long—Sokka remembers what his dad said about responsibility and doing what’s needed, not necessarily what he wants to do. So he and Katara go back to find Aang… but instead June, Iroh, and Zuko find them. Literally the first thing June does is rib Zuko about Katara being his girlfriend and comment that she’s way too pretty for him. Then her beastie thing paralyzes Katara and Sokka, but that’s just business. She has nothing against Katara personally. Sisters before misters, as they say.
This exchange happened, and it was my favorite thing:
Zuko: Where’s the Avatar?!
Sokka: We split up! He’s long gone.
Zuko: How stupid do you think I am?
Me, to my computer: Pretty stupid.
Sokka: Pretty stupid.
June’s ride gets Aang’s scent from the map (which Bato left with Katara and Sokka so they can meet up with their dad later if they want to—foreshadowing?) and hightails it to the abbey, where Aang shows up to get his fight on. And man, Avatar is really good with action scenes.
While Aang and Zuko do their drift compatible fighting thing, June and her beastie deal with appa. Things look to be going in the bad guys’ favor until Sokka has the idea to confuse the beast’s sense of smell by dumping the perfume the nuns make (Chekov’s perfume!) everywhere. A little waterbending here, a little confused tongue-lashing from beastie there, and Zuko, June, and Iroh find themselves paralyzed. Wait, no. June and Zuko are paralyzed. Iroh is just lazy and a little bit of a creepy old man.
Everything hunky dory once again, Team Avatar rides off into the sunset, but not before Aang plays the smooth little fucker card and gives Katara the necklace June was using to track them. Guess who’s not alll byyy hiiiiisselllllfffff…. an-ny-MOOOOOOOOORE.
Next week is an extra-long Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap with “The Deserter,” “The Northern Air Temple,” and “The Waterbending Master,” and then I’m taking a week off before coming back to recap the two-part Book One finale. If the world can wait 100 years for Aang to defrost, you can wait for two weeks.
Because I want to avoid being spoiled if at all possible, comments on this post are locked. 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. You can catch up on previous recaps here.