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Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: “The Ember Island Players”

ember island

This piece was originally posted on Cinefeels and has been republished here with permission.

It’s finally here, and I am so ready.

In advance of the finale, Avatar gives a new spin to the clip show by having the gaang to go Ember Island (the site of my favorite episode), where they catch a play about everything that’s been going on over the previous three seasons:

atla-ember-island

Who’s the guy on the lower left?

Zuko doesn’t want to go, because the Ember Island Players used to butcher this one play every year (on top of everything else, Zuko is a theater nerd. It is canon. I have decided.), but Sokka relishes the opportunity to get back to “wacky, time-wasting nonsense.” That, like much of this episode, is very meta: “Hey remember when we had koi-riding interludes? That was fun.”

Sokka wins out, and they go to the play. The fake versions of characters are all highly exaggerated versions of the real characters, which pisses everyone off except Toph, who loves that she’s portrayed as a big beefy dude (“My name’s Toph, because it sounds like ‘tough,’ and that’s what I am.”) who sees by screaming at people.

toph-ember-island

I’d be flattered, too.

As for the rest of the characters:

  • Fake!Katara is a “preachy crybaby who can’t resist giving overemotional speeches about hope all the time,” and weirdly cleavage-y for a teenage girl besides.
  • Fake!Sokka is an idiot who tells bad jokes about meet. (Real Sokka protests that he tells bad jokes about other things.)
  • Fake!Aang is the chipperest chipper to ever chipper. Oh, and His Cuteness is played by a woman.
  • Fake!Zuko is “totally stiff and humorless,” and also vaguely mimbo-ish with a strong hair-toss game.

zuko-hair-toss

Note: Though Aang is appalled at being played by a woman, Zuko thinks it is funny. I see you back there, sir. I see you.

zuko-smile

So that’s the bulk of the episode: Us getting led through a comedic reenactment of the show’s  highlights, complete with some fanservice-y nods (“Did Jet just… die?”/”You know, it was really unclear,” and Zuko and Katara reacting with horror at the fictional versions of themselves being paired romantically. Sorry, shippers.) During a break, Aang goes off to brood about Fake!Katara telling Fake!Aang she only sees him as a brother. That plays into Real!Aang’s insecurities about their relationship: He thought they’d be together after they kissed during the failed attack on the Fire Nation, but nothing’s come of it since. Katara awkwardly explains that they kind of have other shit to deal with right now, so she’ll be waiting until after they’ve saved the world to work out some of her confusion about what she wants from their relationship if it’s all the same to him, thanks.

Aang, having seen one too many rom-coms where the lady swoons at take-charge men and romantic gestures, tries to plant one on Katara, who has the perfect response: “I just said I don’t want to be with you right now. What the fuck is wrong with you? Where did you get ‘kiss me’ from that?”

cheers

Back inside, where Katara’s not schooling Aang on consent issues, Sokka has befriended the fake version of himself and given him some jokes, which proceed to kill with the audience. Zuko is told by a Aang cosplayer that his costume is decent, but the scar’s on the wrong side. Toph is sopping it up. She also comforts Zuko about his guilt for turning on Iroh, which was brought to the fore by seeing it reenacted on-screen. “I once had a long chat with him, and all he talked about was you,” she says. “He just wanted you to find your own path, and you have. I think he’d be proud of you.”

OK, but Iroh’s coming back, right?!

Inside, the play finishes up: Fake!Azula loves Lee’s press-on nails, Zuko has undergone his third hair change, and events catch up to the present day. Then they go further: Zuko fights Azula, Aang fights Ozai, and both Zuko and Aang are killed, the crowd cheering in raptures for the ultimate victory of the Fire Nation.

Oh, yeah. I forgot that Ember Island is part of the Fire Nation, so of course they want Ozai to win. At least Fake!Zuko will always have his:

zuko-honorrrrr

Next up, I’m planning a short post on “What I want to see from the Avatar finale.” Then there’ll be one more newbie recap, with all four finale episodes together. Then: Korra, though I might take a break in between the two shows. Stay flamin’!

Rebecca (@RebeccaPahle) used to work for The Mary Sue before she cruelly abandoned them for Film Journal International, where she is currently the Assistant Editor. Still, she couldn’t stop doing Avatar recaps. Rebecca also writes for Pajiba and Phactual in addition to her personal website, Cinefeels.

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