Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: Book Two – “The Desert,” “The Serpent’s Pass”
In which Katara is Moses.
And with this week’s recap, I am now covering the latter half of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I don’t want it to end!
AKA that one where Sokka spends 80% of the time stoned off his ass. But there were some other things, too.
We start right where “The Library” ended, with the gaang stranded in the desert after Appa got bison-napped by some sandbenders. Continuing his trend from “The Chase,” Appa being fucked with is the one thing that can be relied upon to make Aang fly off the handle. He screams at his friends for not caring about Appa, specifically at Toph, whom he blames for not saving Appa even though she was kinda busy saving them at the time. Katara tries to calm him down, pointing out that having a hissy fit doesn’t help them get out of the very dangerous situation they currently find themselves in. But Aang’s all “LATER, FUCKHOLES,” and flies off into the sunset on his glider to look for Appa his own damn self. Poor cupcake.
So Katara, Sokka, and Toph start walking, and they make it all of a few minutes into the episode before Sokka drinks some Cactus Juice (“The Quenchiest!”) and gets himself stoned, because apparently he doesn’t know that you do not drink liquids from strange plants.
He sees a sandsplosion in the distance, caused by Aang and his massive angst, and proceeds to do a FRIENDLY MUSHROOM DANCE. I wish I could search for gifs of it without worrying about getting spoiled, but for now these substitutions will have to suffice:
Meanwhile, Zuko and Iroh are set upon by a group of Fire Nation bandits who are here to collect the bounty on their heads. They’re extremely friendly, and also a singing group! The leader, when Iroh points that out, says “We’re not here to give a concert!,” which I take as confirmation that they are a singing group and do a mean acapella cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Iroh’s all calm, asking if the rough riders want to have tea, but you just know he’s about to start some shit.
And start some shit he does—he and Iroh take care of the bounty hunters pretty quickly and make their way to the near-deserted tourist village from last episode, where they’re told Aang and his crew went into the desert and are probably dead by now. Instead of going after them (do they even still want to? I feel like Zuko’s phoning in the Aang chase-age at this point), they go to a pub and meet up with one of Iroh’s old contacts, someone from a secret society called the White Lotus.
Coincidentally, also in the village the Ringleader and Master Yu from “The Blind Bandit,” who are still hunting Toph down for her father. They see Zuko and Iroh’s wanted poster and decide to bring them in for some extra dough. Iroh’s White Lotus contact causes a pub brawl by loudly talking about the FUGUTIVES with the HUGE BOUNTY on their heads if SOMEONE can BEAT EVERYONE ELSE and TAKE THEM INTO CUSTODY, which allows Zuko and Iroh to escape and make their way to the White Lotus’ clubhouse. Zuko, not being a member of the order, has to wait outside in the flower-filled anteroom, and I was so sure he was going go wander off and get into some shit. Only he didn’t. You’re growing up, babe.
Meanwhile, back in the desert, Aang comes back and is all nihilistic about how they’ll never find Appa and they’re all gonna die and everything is pointless forever and ever amen. Toph is similarly cynical, and Sokka is still rocking that cactus juice, leaving Katara surrounded by useless incompetents. AS USUAL. She’s the one who thinks to consult the star charts Sokka stole from the library. She’s the one who comes up with the idea for Aang to bend cloud water into her canteen. She’s the one who can literally suck water out of sand with her bending powers after Momo spilled it. And next episode she sucks water out of a map, making it dry, without harming the ink. They’re not the flashiest waterbending moves ever, but they must take some serious precision, and she does them without blinking. They would all be dead SO MANY TIMES if not for her.
After what is (presumably) a few hours, they wake up, and Sokka is still high. DANG, cactus juice. Toph senses a sandglider buried underground, which the group uses to make faster progress. It takes them to a rocky outcrop—YES! SOLID GROUND! Toph is pleased—only it turns out to be a giant nest filled with giant bugs.
Toph has a hard time fighting them because she can’t sense where they are in the air, and Katara’s out of bending water, so they work together—Toph as the muscle, Katara as the guidance system—and take down some bugs that way. One of the bugs steals Momo, which causes Aang—who’s been spoiling for a fight this whole episode—to fucking snap.
YOU DON’T STEAL HIS LEMUR.
YOU JUST DON’T.
He rescues Momo and heads back to the rock, where Katara, Toph, and a by-this-time relatively sober Sokka have been confronted by sandbenders. Toph recognizes one of their voices as belonging to one of the guys who stole Appa. Aang is not best pleased: he goes all HULK SMASH on the sand gliders and then enters Avatar state.
Aang does that thing where he’s so pissed he creates an air bubble around himself and starts to levitate, while the sandbenders are absolutely shitting themselves and promising Aang they’ll help him get out of the desert, just please don’t kill us. Katara clings onto Aang and literally tethers him to the earth, bringing him back down both physically and emotionally. Then she hugs him until he comes back to himself.
Meanwhile Iroh and Zuko have snuck out of town in flower pots and are headed to Ba Sing Se, because A) there are a lot of refugees there, so they won’t be noticed, and B) it’s not like it’s an easy city for the Fire Nation to invade. The gaang is also headed to Ba Sing Se, both to tell the Earth Nation about the solar eclipse and to find Appa, who was taken there and sold by the sandbenders
So they’re all headed to the same place. IS FRIENDSHIP INCOMING?!
“The Serpent’s Pass”
Fucking JET’S back
— Rebecca Pahle (@RebeccaPahle) September 1, 2014
This episode is a bit of a blast from the past, reintroducing as it does Kyoshi Warrior Suki, who almost hooked up (in a non-sex, kid’s show way) with Sokka that one time, and FUCKING JET. Oh, and CABBAGE MAN!
Aang has seemingly recovered remarkably well from Appa being bison-napped, though Katara senses bullshit, and we’ll later learn he’s really just repressing his emotions. They’re joined by a trio of refugees who are also on their way to Ba Sing Se, one of whom is a pregnant lady who’d really like to not pop the kid out ’til she has a permanent place of residence.
The refugees convince the gaang that the way they were going to use to get to Ba Sing Se, the Serpent’s Path, is too dangerous, and instead they should go to a secret cove where a fleet of ferries carry refugees across a lake to the city.
Who should be on one of those ferries but Zuko, Iroh, and FUCKING JET, who starts rabblerousin’ about the lack of good food. Zuko, not knowing the myriad ways in which FUCKING JET is a total shitbagel, agrees to help steal food from the Captain and distribute it among the passengers. The heist goes perfectly, and FUCKING JET even says something about how he used to be involved in bad things (like attempting to sacrifice a village of Fire Nation civilians?), but now he’s going to Ba Sing Se to start over.
It all could be legit, but… FUCKING JET. No. I don’t trust him. His minions, on the other hand, are great. Iroh makes a comment about Smellerbee being an odd name for a boy, to which Smellerbee responds that I’m actually a girl, punk. Then Longshop gives her a pep talk, all using his facial expressions. It’s a really good scene-let.
Back at the cove, Aang has trouble getting tickets for his friends until Toph pulls the “I’m a member of a super-rich” family card and hooks ’em up. Cabbage man is not so lucky—he’s allowed on the ship, but his cabbages are not. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions.
Some snarky guard comes up and starts messing with Sokka, and surprise! It’s Suki, who with the rest of the Kyoshi Warriors ended up assisting the war effort by being security guards at the refugee center. The happy reunion is interrupted when the trio of refugees from earlier get their tickets stolen, so Aang offers to escort them across the Serpent’s Pass instead. Suki decides to go with them, and off they go.
Aang goes off on a rant about how hope is useless and they need to stay focused, do you think I should wear guyliner and try for a Robert Smith-esque swoop, Katara? I know I’m bald, but I think I could make it work. Katara continues to be distressed at her friend’s character development, while Suki goes into exposition mode and says the Fire Nation’s working on some super-secret weapon (WAR BALLOOOOOOON).
A Fire Nation ship spots them and starts shooting fire balls, and everyone survives, but it’s revealed that Sokka’s feeling very protective toward Suki. She tells him that she can take care of her own damn self, thank you very much, but she doesn’t get angry at him or anything. I think because she senses there’s some deeper issue here, even if she doesn’t know what it is. “His girlfriend turned into the moon” probably isn’t something she would have guessed.
Suki tells Sokka she lost someone, too—someone who was smart and brave and funny, but left after only a few days. Sokka’s response is “WHO IS THIS FUCKHEAD?!” Oh, my baby dingledork! They almost kiss, but Sokka’s not emotionally ready, and anyway they’re right in front of Sokka’s ex-girlfriend the moon, so… that’d be a little odd.
Our Heroes make their way to a part of the path that’s submerged under water. Katara FLIPPING MOSESES THAT STUFF and gets them part of the way across pretty easily…
…but then it turns out there’s a serpent in the water who wants to eat them, thus the name “Serpent’s Pass.” Toph earthbends them up to the surface, but they’re not out of danger yet. After Sokka’s offer of Momo of a sacrifice isn’t accepted (Sokka!), Aang distracts the serpent while Katara turns the water into an ice bridge for them to walk across, because what can’t she do?
Everyone gets across safely but Toph, who’s a little freaked out because she can’t see if she’s standing on ice. It’d be more than a little terrifying. The serpent breaks the bridge, and Toph falls into the water and starts drowning, only to be rescued by Suki. Toph kisses her on the cheek because she thinks she’s Sokka. People ship Toph/Sokka, right?
Katara and Aang get some tag-team action on and whirlpool the serpent into oblivion, after which the group gets to the other side of the path and finds themselves within easy hiking distance of the wall of Ba Sing Se. Sokka, jinxing them, happily proclaims that it’s nothing but smooth sailing from here on out. Which is when the refugee lady goes into labor.
And Katara’s not even bothered. “Hell yeah, I’ve delivered babies! I’ve delivered like twelve babies. You haven’t delivered babies?” THERE IS LITERALLY NOTHING SHE CANNOT DO. Sokka the Teenage Boy faints, of course. And Aang, seeing the newborn girl (whose name is Hope, which would be cute if I couldn’t stop thinking about the Dolphin Tale 2 trailer), realizes that he needs to accept his feelings instead of pushing them down, which is exactly what Katara tried to give him a pep talk about before.
Katara: “Hey Aang, you’re fucking up.” 20 MINS OF EPISODE PASS. Aang: “Hey Katara, I was fucking up.” Katara: “Ya think?” — Rebecca Pahle (@RebeccaPahle) September 1, 2014
Back on the ferry, FUCKING JET tells Zuko that “as soon as I saw your scar, I knew exactly who you were.” CUE ZUKO PANIC, until FUCKING JET continues: “You’re an outcast like me.” Stop trying to be so smoooth all the time, FUCKING JET.
Zuko admits that “being on your own isn’t always the best path.” Nooooo, Zuko! Don’t fall in with FUCKING JET and his crowd! You have a spot waiting for you with the gaang! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Meanwhile, the gaang says their goodbyes—Aang, having accepted that he needs to get Appa ASAP, glides ahead to the city walls, leaving Katara, Sokka, and the refugees to follow along behind. And Suki heads back to the cove—after all, she only really went with them to protect Sokka in the first place. They kiss. Aww, sweethearts.
But, seeing as this is part one of a two-parter, we have to end on a cliffhanger, and it is: Aang seeing a GIANT DRILL approaching the walls of Ba Sing Se. Mission Rescue Appa will have to be put on hold as Aang deals with this newest crisis.
So the drill was the secret weapon… not the war balloon? I want the war balloon back. Also, this has been four whole episodes without Azula. I’m getting antsy!
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