Avatar: The Last Airbender Newbie Recap: “The Earth King”
Yeah, split up. That always works.
Aang is reunited with Appa, and nothing will be wrong ever again! Right?
OK, I just want to get the WTFery out of the way first: Zuko’s b-plot. Last episode he made the call to stop hunting Aang because daddy dearest said to, and instead to focus on what he himself wants to do with his life. It’s a cathartic moment. A heroic one. He’s finally found himself able to cut psychological ties with an abusive parent.
So things will be good for him now, right?
WRONG. He puts his life on the right track, and then he gets sick. Because he put his life on the right track, in fact—Iroh says his decision “was in such conflict with your image of yourself that you’re now at war within your mind and body.” Zuko and I have the same reaction: “WTF?” That’s not how science works, Iroh. Also, fuck that. I’m done. I hate this show. It’s not fair. Nothing’s ever fair for Zuko.
He spends basically the whole episode having fever dreams, where a blue dragon with the voice of Azula tells him to relax and go to sleep “just like mother” (!!!), while a red dragon with Iroh’s voice tries to get him to wake up “before it’s too late.” Creepiness and Mama Zuko angst? Thanks. I needed both those things. Zuko also dreams that he himself is the Avatar, before we get a nice symbolic shot that scans between his two eyes—the unmarked one representing his own true self, and the one with the scar representing his allegiance to the Fire Nation, I suppose.
It’s some distressing, fucked up shit. The only feel-good thing here is Iroh telling Zuko he’s going through metamorphosis, and when he’s done he’ll be a “beauuuuuuutiful
Things are looking slightly better for the Gaang. Their recovery of Appa put the usually skeptical Sokka in a way optimistic mood, so now he’s ready and raring to find the Earth King and tell him about the eclipse. Katara—who’s used to having her plans shat on by Sokka, not the other way around—suggests that maybe they avoid tempting fate and just get the hell out of Ba Sing Se while they still can. But Aang and Sokka’s enthusiasm proves infectious, and in the end they decide to storm the Earth King’s palace.
It’s not easy, but it does make for an amazing action sequence. Toph kicks all the ass (she turns a stairway into a sliiiiiide!), and Aang is DONE with Appa being fucked with.
Katara, meanwhile, apologizes to the guards as she and her group zip right by ’em. They are, after all, just doing their jobs. Katara would be polite to minimum wage retail employees, and I respect that.
The group eventually finds the throne room of the Earth King, with Long Feng hovering around being all skeezy and telling His Kingliness that the Avatar is here to overthrow him. The king’s… sweet. Naive, certainly, but that’s what’ll come from being controlled and manipulated for your entire life. It reminds me of The Last Emperor. At first, the King doesn’t believe that Long Feng was lying to him about the hundred-year war, but our heroes figure out a way to expose his treachery (it involves Appa having bitten the heck out of him, oh yeah). The king’s not on their side yet, but he’s at least willing to listen to them. Cue half-hearted cheer.
The Gaang takes the King to Lake Laogai, only to discover that Long Feng was one step ahead of them and had the entrance caved in. Sokka promises that, if the King lets them escort him to the wall to see the damage there, he’ll be able to ride on Appa. It’s a good moment. Everyone else is all “Justice! Righteousness! The King has to come to the wall!” But Sokka figures out, nah, sometimes you just have to exploit people’s emotions and let them ride sky bisons. It works.
Long Feng tries to pass it off as a “construction project,” but the King isn’t buying it and orders Long Feng to be tried for crimes against the Fire Nation. Sokka delivers a zinger: “Looks like Long Feng is long gone!”
So the king’s on their side now, and everything’s good. Toph’s mom is in the city, and she’s apparently come around to realizing her daughter isn’t completely helpless. Three Kyoshi Warriors are headed to Ba Sing Se. Aang gets the letter from Guru Pitka inviting him to the Eastern Air Temple. And Katara and Sokka find out their dad is at Camellia Bay. The crisis is over, and now it’s time for the Gaang to split up, because that always ends well. Toph will go see her mom, Aang will go to Guru Pitka, and Sokka will go to his father—his little happy dance when Katara says she’ll be the one to stay behind and make sure shit doesn’t go awry in the Earth Kingdom is adorable.
And it’s a pretty good thing Katara’s still in Ba Sing Se, too, because if there’s anyone I trust to deal with the fuckery that’s about to happen, it’s her.
Yeah, that’s right, more fuckery. The three Kyoshi Warriors are actually Ty Lee, Mai, and Azula, which was pretty obvious because Azula’s battle with Suki was featured in the “previously on” in the beginning of the episode. I’m pretty sure Suki’s not dead, but Fucking Jet died last episode, so who the hell knows?
What I didn’t anticipate is the letter from Toph’s mom actually being from the two bounty hunters her father sent to capture her and bring her back home. Nope, I didn’t… see it coming.
Oh c’mon, Toph would have loved that.
So we end this episode with Toph captured, Ozai’s angels having infiltrated Ba Sing Se, Long Feng in prison but still having the allegiance of the Dai Lee… and Aang and Sokka riding away on Appa, completely obvious to the loose ends they’ve left behind.
Have fun next episode, Katara! I believe in you.
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