Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: “Nightmares And Daydreams”
This piece was originally posted on Cinefeels and has been republished here with permission.
Between the ominous-sounding title and the “Previously On” featuring Zuko father/son angst, I didn’t think this episode sounded like a more chill follow-up to last week’s horrorfest at allllllllll. Oh, how glad I was to be wrong. I am 99% sure the showrunners just cooked up the plot of this ep so they’d have an excuse to make Momo and Appa swordfight.
This episode makes its light, fluffy, all-around weird spirit known when the first thing it shows is koala sheep. For all Sokka’s freaking out about the schedule, the gaang’s actually gotten to the rendezvous point for the invasion early, meaning they have four days to chill before it’s time for Aang to challenge the Fire Lord and save the world… or to get his ass beat, failing to achieve his destiny and dooming everyone he knows as a result. I’m going to guess it’s somewhere in between, as we still have 12 episodes to go after this one.
Aang’s seized by an all-consuming stress that I know all too well, so I feel for the li’l dude, but then he has nightmare that’s straight out of Dragonball Z, and I’m just laughing.
Props to the showrunners for giving their artists something fun to draw after last week, even if Dream!Aang’s relization that he’s not wearing pants sends things in a Salvador Dalí from Spellbound sort of direction:
Just can’t leave the freaky behind, can you ATLA? What happened to fun, innocent penguin surfing? You’ve gone mad with power!
Over the next several days, Aang proceeds to panic over confronting the Fire Lord, insisting that he train 24/7 and eventually refusing to sleep because of a series of increasingly ridiculous nightmares in which he A) forgets about a math test and B) is told by young, flying hippo-riding Ozai that he slept in and missed the invasion.
Aang’s friends all try and lower his stress levels, Katara by teaching him hot yoga, Sokka by treating him to a therapy session (surprisingly, Wang Fire does not appear to have gotten his degree from a reputable institute), and Toph by beating him up with socks.
To detour for a second–I initially typed “hot yoga” as “hot Yoda,” and, being seized by a perhaps inadvisable curiosity, decided to go a Google image search. I was not disappointed:
Over in Zukoland, AKA Angsty Teenage Bullshitburgh, things are going pretty well for our resident Rufio–he’s waited on hand and foot by servants, his subjects love him, his relationship with Mai’s going great. So–all together now–why isn’t he happy?! Because you’re emotionally oblivious and you’ve allied yourself with the wrong side*, WE HAVE ESTABLISHED THIS.
(*Not that I blame him for that. I may have screamed at him at the time, and I may joke about Zuko being an idiot, but the guy had a really tough choice, and he chose family. He chose the only thing he’d ever known against a life that would have irrevocably put the nail in the coffin of his father’s possible affection for him. And, for fuck’s sake, he’s an abused kid. I can’t say I’d have done differently in his place.)
This week, the subject of his brooding is that Pops is holding a very important war meeting, to which he wasn’t invited. Zula, as always not giving a shit about her brother’s angst, says everyone must have assumed he’d be there, so he didn’t need an invite, stop being a paranoid, immature buttface and go to the meeting already.
Later, he has the following (paraphrased) conversation with Mai:
Mai: It’s just a stupid meeting, why do you even care?
Zuko: I don’t!
Zuko: I mean I totes do.
In trying to make Zuko feel better, Mai asks him why he even wants to go to the meeting, because “just think about how things went at the last meeting you went to.” You know the one. “HEY, REMEMBER THAT TIME YOUR DAD BURNED YOUR FACE OFF? GOOD TIMES.” GEE THANKS, MAI.
Back to Aang. The dreams he’s has so far are pretty funny, at least to us, but now he has one that’s creepy as well, which makes me think there might be some prophecy thing going on. In it, Toph doesn’t have eyes, Sokka gets walled up by earth, Katara gets burninated, and Aang gets trapped under ice while Zuko watches. Then the comet lands, and everything burns.
From there, Aang’s vision reach full-stop, sleep-deprived, delirious, hallucinogenic glory. (Writers: “How can we make Aang high as shit?“) One of ‘em involves making out with Katara. In another one, Momo and Appa (now granted the power of speech) have a fight while koala sheep cheer them on and a log that Aang dressed up as Ozai (with a muscle shirt!) for training purposes punches the air in the background.
No words can possibly do this scene justice, so I’m just going to drop some screencaps on you instead:
Katara, Sokka, and Toph finally convince Aang that he’s ready for the invasion (which by this point is tomorrow) and that he should sleep. As for the Fire Nation war prep, Zuko sucked it up and went to the meeting. He tells Mai that he literally sat at his father’s right hand, and that he behaved as his father’s perfect son and was treated accordingly.
Mai: You must have been so happy!
Zuko: LOL NO. Who the fuck am I?
With the invasion happening over the next two-parter, I assume Zuko will have another shot to realize that having his father’s approval isn’t what he really wants, and that honor—as he currently defines it, anyway—isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. WE CAN BE HEROES, ZUKO! DON’T FUCK UP AGAIN! YOU CAN BRING MAI WITH YOU! SAVE THE WORLD!
“Nightmares and Daydreams” has one last bit of glorious WTFery to throw at us. Aang has a final dream, in which Fire Lord Ozai tells him (as in the first one) that he’s not wearing pants. But au contraire–it is it Ozai who’s not wearing pants. “AGGHHH! NOOOOO! MY ROYAL BUTT IS SHOWING! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!,” shrieks Ozai voice actor Mark Hamill.
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.