Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: “The Day Of The Black Sun,” Parts 1 & 2
This piece was originally posted on Cinefeels and has been republished here with permission.
EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING SO MUCH.
The Day of Black Sun: Part 1 – The Invasion
AKA “Zuko get your act together, I SWEAR TO GOD!”
We start off with the gaang waiting at the rendezvous point, Aang happy and refreshed after his brief run of sleep-deprived delirium last episode. They’re soon joined by Katara and Sokka’s father Hakota, who’s brought with him a small number of Water Tribe soldiers and some friends of the gaang whom they’ve rounded up. The swamp rednecks are back, and Monocle Man the Machinist and his son, and Pipsqueak and The Duke, and THE BOULLLLLLDERRRRRRRRR. Also Haru (with the manky sort of moustache a teenage boy grows) and his father from “Imprisoned,” both of whom have shown up to fight because Katara is awesome. ATLA, if this is going to be a who’s who of past guest stars, I have a request:
Sure, the last time we saw Suki she was getting her ass walloped by Azula, but it’s not like Jet, whom we saw get morally injured. I refuse to accept the possibility that Suki’s not kicking it somewhere out there.
The Machinist, with Sokka’s help, has whipped up a few new inventions for the invasion, one of which is a new glider with a snack compartment that Aang’s initially dubious about. Aang, you’re a 12-year-old boy (I think?). How do you not appreciate snacks?
Sokka completely bombs his presentation of their plan, which he proceeds to be all morose about. Aang later comforts him saying that the presentation was nothing but public speaking, and Sokka’s real moment of truth will come on the battlefield. Sokka asks Aang how he can be so confident, to which Aang replies that he already screwed up once at Ba Sing Se, and he won’t let himself fail again. Baby. You’re not going to win here. There are ten episodes left after this two-parter.
The plan, by the by, is for the invasion force to power through the water surrounding the Fire Nation palace (which is inside a volcano, because, as established, the Fire Nation has flair) before the eclipse, so they’ll be confronting powerless palace guards and not powerless random foot soldiers. Meanwhile, Aang will glide into the palace and confront Ozai.
But in order to get that far, they have to make it through the Gates of Azulon, which is essentially a big volleyball net that someone’s lit on fire.
My perpetual favorite thing about ATLA – the FIRE NATION JET SKIS – approach, but the good guys stymie them by escaping onto submarines that Sokka helped design by suggesting that waterbending could be used for propulsion. Even Appa has a scuba outfit!
After getting past the fiery volleyball net, the good guys resurface for air and Aang goes on his merry way, with his glider and his sense of purpose and his newly shaved cueball head. Before he goes, he smooches Katara in a G-rated version of the “last night on Earth” ploy. Awww, sweet puppies!
I’m feeling so bad for Zuko. Shit’s gonna get terrible for him once Ozai discovers the Avatar is still alive. But he might not be around to suffer the consequences, becuase–SHOCK! EXCITEMENT!–this episode sees him write Mai a Dear John letter before telling a portrait of his mom that he’s made some fucked up choices (YA THINK?!), but he’s ready to make things right.
IT’S ALL HAPPENING.
So Zuko is leaving, the good guys are invading, and–to add another wrinkle–Iroh’s about to bust out of prison, using the eclipse as cover. He’s getting help from the White Lotus, so it’s entirely possible that we’ll see some of them show up as well. There’s also a nice guard whom Iroh helpfully tells to take a day off work, and wait what?–
Oh… kay then. I was told she was a fan of the show, and the showrunners were like “HEY WANNA BE IN IT?” and she was like “YEAH SURE.” I can dig it.
The invasion starts happening, and it’s awesome, because that’s how this show rolls. Katara & co use waterbending to launch torpedoes. The earthbenders push tanks that were being stored inside the subs, like a kind of war turducken. Hugh the swamp redneck shows up in his seaweed Jaeger.
I was convinced that Hakoda was going to die (and he still might–remember FUCKING JET. This shoe doesn’t care about your feelings), but instead he just gets injured, and Katara stays behind to heal him with her magic water. That leaves Sokka in the position of leading the invasion force, which is promptly jinxed when Bato happily proclaims “We’re on our way to victory!” Way to go, asshole.
The episode ends with Aang reaching Ozai’s throne room, only to find that it’s empty. Oh shit. I forgot that Azula found out about the solar eclipse invasion plan and told her dad. He doesn’t know Aang’s a part of it, but he still knows enough to go on a quick vacation and set up a trap for when the eclipse ends.
The Day of Black Sun: Part 2 – The Eclipse
Yeah, like I couldn’t watch the first part of this and then go right to the second. The rest of the show is gonna go by fast. I can’t wait to get to “The Ember Island Players.”
Everything is perfectly primed for the gaang’s victory–they got to the palace, the eclipse is in a few minutes, all is good. Except the area around the palace is abandoned and Ozai’s high-tailed it elsewhere, because they knew about the attack. Whooooooooops. Aang shows up, and the gaang figures out that Ozai must be in some sort of underground bunker, because he wouldn’t leave his city entirely.
Toph: “UNDERGROUND BUNKER, YOU SAY?!”
She uses her bending to locate a series of secret tunnels
Inside the volcano, and Aang, Toph, and Sokka go inside to hopefully find Ozai before the eclipse happens in, oh, ten minutes. They cross a river of lava and bust into the bunker with 30 seconds to spare, only to find… Azula.
The gaang tries to imprison her and find out where Ozai is, and that should work, because with the eclipse happening, Azula is powerless. Except Azula brought two earthbenders home from Ba Sing Se to be her personal guards, because she thinks ahead like that. There’s a scene that involves her running around chased by the gaang, who are in turn chased by the earthbenders. Cue Benny Hill music. Sokka realizes that Azula is just distracting them so they won’t be able to get to Ozai before the eclipse ends. And knowing that should mean that they’re able to just ignore her and go do their world-saving thing… until Azula taunts Sokka about how she’s imprisoned Suki.
Suki who isn’t dead.
I KNEW IT!
Someone else taking advantage of the eclipse’s power-sapping abilities is Zuko, who instead of just packing some shit and skedaddling, goes to confront Ozai with some truths. To wit: You’re a shit father. For so long all I wanted was your love and acceptance, but you’re an asshole, SO THERE’S THAT. Iroh was a better father to me than you ever were, AND FURTHERMORE, this war is bullshit and everyone thinks the Fire Nation is full of dickbag murderers, WHICH IT IS! BTW, the Avatar’s alive, and I’m going to go join him, suck it.
It’s… it’s so much more than I ever could have dreamed of. He calls his abusive father out. Even if he has to wait until the eclipse to do it, because he knows if he doesn’t Ozai is 99% likely to kill him. My response to which is:
Ozai’s response to all this is a blend of “long hair don’t care” and “RAAAAAAAAGE.” In order to distract Zuko like Azula’s distracting Aang (like father, like daughter), Ozai tells him what really happened to his mom: in order to keep Ozai from killing Zuko at Azulon’s resquest, Zuko’s mother assassinated, or was involved in the assassination of, her father-in-law. That made Ozai the new Fire Lord, but Zuko’s mom still had to be banished for committing treason, because whadddayagonnado?
So, tl;dr, Zuko’s mom might still be alive. Right then, the eclipse ends, and Ozai attacks his son with a lightning bolt, which Zuko is able to deflect because inner peace and character growth, my baby! He goes to find Iroh, who’s already escaped with the help of his new, creepy muscleman physique. Azula, with her firebending restored, fights the good guys for a bit and then escapes. Aang still wants to go fight Ozai, but Toph and Sokka convince him that they have to retreat, and that they’ll have another chance.
Outside the ~~secret tunnels~~, the rest of the armed forces, including Katara and the still-wounded Hakota, go from kicking ass and taking names during the eclipse to being chased by dirigibles of death (based on Sokka’s design from back in Book One) when the benders get their powers back. Appa and Katara are able to slice ‘n’ dice some balloons, but not enough, and the submarines get destroyed. The only thing to do is for the children–the gaang, plus Haru, he Duke, and the Machinist’s son whose name I can’t remember–to escape on Appa, while the adults stay behind and get captured, after which they’ll meet up with Suki in prison and proceed to raise holy hell, right?
After an emotional farewell, the younguns fly off to lay low in the Western Air Temple, with Zuko following them on a dirigible–not to capture them this time, but to join them.
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.