“The Warriors of Kyoshi”
We start our lady warrior episode with Zuko’s chill session on the Fire Nation ship (Get it? Because he’s a firebender?) being interrupted by Uncle Iroh, which sends Zuko’s Angsty Whiner level up to eleven because Only interrupt me if there’s news about the Avatar!!!!! Iroh responds that there is news about the Avatar, so huh asshole, what now?! What now?!?!
Unfortunately, that news… is that there is no news.
Zuko promised Iroh to stay calm but instead flips his shit when Iroh says they have no idea where the Avatar is. He covers for his ineptitude by claiming that Aang must be “a master of evasive maneuvering,” when really, we as see in the next scene, he really just has no idea where he’s going. I want this to continue to be a thing on Zuko’s part. “I accidentally oversalted my lunch. Aang must be a master at sneaking onto ships and widening the holes in salt shakers.”
Meanwhile, Aang’s trying to impress Katara with an airbender trick, but she’s too busy mending Sokka’s pants. Cue Sokka being a sexist douchebag talking about how sewing is girl shit and hunting and fighting are guy shit, no offense, Katara, just take the compliment! Katara, because she’s a boss, does not take the “compliment,” and instead tosses Sokka his holey pants to repair himself. Aang tells Sokka that “Where we’re going, you won’t need any pants.” And I should feel kind of bad that I’m watching a kid’s show and my brain went straight to “Well that‘s a line from the Avatar: The Last Airbender porn parody,” but… no, there’s no way for me to end that sentence. I do feel kind of bad about that.
Where they’re going is the island of Kyoshi, or to be specific right offshore the island of Kyoshi, because there are some elephant koi there Aang really wants to ride. Katara and Sokka are both unimpressed, particularly Sokka, which is nuts because Aang’s riding a giant koi! How insanely high are your standards for what constitutes “cool”? Ugh. Teenage boys.
Also, Aang is the most insanely ripped 12-year-old in all of existence.
I am uncomfortable.
A giant sea monster called the Unagi makes it appearance and chases Aang to the shore, where he, Katara, and Sokka are immediately set upon by a clan of female fighters called the Warriors of Kyoshi, named after a previous Avatar. Sokka is incredibly shocked—shocked, I say!—that a bunch of girls managed to take him down. Aang tries to convince Resident Old Dude that he’s the Avatar, not a Fire Nation spy, but it takes Katara reminding him “Yo, you’re an airbender, so airbend” to get them out of the situation.
MVP of the episode—that guy who loses his shit when Aang does his marble trick:
Soon enough word spreads and Zuko finds out that Aang’s on Kyoshi. This exchange happens:
Zuko: He’s not getting away from me this time.
Uncle Iroh: Are you going to finish that [your dinner]?
Zuko: I WAS GOING TO SAVE IT FOR LATER.
Me: *dies laughing*
Aang has legit fangirls on Kyoshi, which helps his ego get over the way he’s been failing miserably at impressing a Katara. Unfortunately his newfound fame goes to his head. Katara (rightly) points out that even though the people of Kyoshi are treating him like a celebrity, it’s dangerous for them to stay for too long. Our Lady of Practicality knows what’s up.
Sokka, meanwhile, goes to check out those girls who kicked his ass. He apologizes for interrupting their “dancing lessons,” calls them “just a bunch of girls,” and boasts about being the best warrior in his village of, like, 13 people. Kick his ass, ladies. Kick his ass for his own good. The main lady, Suki, does. And how.
I like ‘er.
Recognizing that Suki is clearly approximately twelve hundred times better at fighting than he is, Sokka visits Suki again and literally grovels so she’ll teach him how to fight. As a condition of his training, Sokka has to wear the traditional Kyoshi warrior garb… which is, essentially, a dress. It’s played for comedy that manly man Sokka doesn’t want to dress like a girl, but once Suki explains the symbolic meaning behind the outfit he’s all “Yeah! Bravery and honor! So cool!” Aang pops his head in and tells him “nice dress,” but Sokka still doesn’t flip and refuse to wear it. Later, when someone mistakes him for a girl, his response is “I’m not a… ah, whatever.” As in previous episodes: Sokka has an issue, in this case thinking femininity is weak. It’s framed by the narrative in such a way that you know he’s wrong. He apologizes and makes up for his negative behavior right away, but more than that: He gets over his issues and actually realizes that he we was wrong, and why. It’s not just “I guess I’d better placate the wimmenz.” Why wasn’t Avatar around for little dudes to watch when I was a kid?
Aang and Katara make up, him admitting that maaaybe he was too into having groupies and her clarifying that he does care about him, even if sometimes that doesn’t come across. The emotional moment is punctuated by the Unagi, which turns out to be a giant motherflipping sea dragon, showing up and trying to eat Aang.
Katara saves his ass with her waterbending skills, then saves his ass again by waterbending the air out of his lungs, which is arguably the most badass thing to go down in this episode. And that’s including the Warriors of Kyoshi kicking some Fire Nation ass when Zuko and his goons show up on their rhino… things.
After a fight scene between Aand and Zuko the former decides to leave so the baddies will follow him and stop pummeling Kyoshi. Sokka apologizes to Suki for treating her like a girl when he should’ve treated her like a warrior. Her response: “I am a warrior… but I’m a girl, too.” This scene floats around as a gifset on Tumblr, so I’ve seen it before, but it’s not any less cool for that. Avatar wants you to take your strict gender divisions (you can be a warrior OR a girl, but not both) and STICK ‘EM.
Everything looks good—our heroes have gotten away, no one died, etc—but Aang has an opportunity to be even more of a champ, so he takes it, riding the Unagi and using it to put out the fires engulfing Kyoshi before riding off into the sunset on Appa.
“The King of Omashu”
The good guys got the Fire Nation off their tails at some point, because when they visit the Earth Kingdom city of Omashu their nemeses are nowhere to be seen. In fact, this is a completely Zukoless episode, and it makes me sad.
Aang disguises himself as an elderly grandfather to keep his Avatar identity secret, and he gets really into it, calling Katara nad Sokka “young whippersnappers” and threatening to spank the guard. Right after he gets into the city Momo pops up from Aand’s “wig,” breaking their cover. But none of that is as important as the introduction of Cabbage Man, who from what I’ve seen of fandom is, like, the most important character in this whole series, even if he probably only shows up in this one episode.
Once in the city we have a conspicuous flashback of Aang hanging with his friend Bumi, a gap-toothed street rat-looking kid who encourages Aang to think creatively by using Omashu’s extensive system of shoots
and ladders, intended for mail delivery, as the world’s greatest super slide. Back in the present day Aang introduces Katara and Sokka to the slide, and it looks like a hell of a lot of fun, albeit property-damaging fun. Once again, they get in a tough spot re: a potentially lethal crash, and Katara has to remind Aang “Yo, you literally have superpowers. Save us.” The group would be dead ten times over if it weren’t for her.
All the same, she can’t stop them from being arrested. They’re taken before the King of Omashu, who—spoiler alert—is totally Bumi. That might not’ve been so obvious if I’d seen this back when I was part of Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s target audience, though, so I’ll try not to feel superior to 10-year-olds. Cabbage Man, whose stock they landed on during their slide escapade, demands that their heads be chopped off—”one for every head of cabbage!” I can see why this guy is iconic.
The King is a magnificent slice of magnificence, telling his guards to “THROW THEM……. a feast!” At said feast he proceeds to pun it up, saying that Kangaroo Island must be “hopping,” a splendid bit of wordplay that Sokka is the only with a sophisticated enough sense of humor to laugh at. The King tricks Aang into revealing that he’s the Avatar, after which he refuses Katara’s demands to “let us leave” (“lettuce leave?,” he responds, with an ominous bit of ruffage chomping) and tells Aang that the next day he’ll have to complete three deadly challenges.
During the night Katara and Sokka are abducted as insurance against Aang not completing his tasks. “I’m going to give them a souvenir!”—says the King, gaaaassssssp—”… nice jewelry!” Awwwww. “THAT WILL ENCASE THEIR BODIES AND KILL THEM BY NIGHTFALL.” GASSSSSSSP. That’s quite a way to kill people. I like it. I mean. That sounds awful.
The first challenge involves retrieving a lunchbox key, and after a few sassworthy attempts (“Oh, the ladder, no one’s ever tried that before”) Aang thinks creatively and succeeds. The same is true of the second task: He has to save the King’s pet “Flopsy” from a monster, only “Flopsy”actually is the monster, a goat/gorilla hybrid who likes bellyrubs. The third challenge is fighting an earthbender, and Aang thinks he’s being all smart when he challenges the King instead of one of the other beefed-up looking dudes on offer. But it turns out that Aang fell right into the King’s trap, because old!Bumi is READY. TO. GO.
No caption required.
Aang… Aang, did you just challenge the king earthbender to a duel? Whoooooops. Aang tries to go for one of the other dudes but is told “there are no take-backsies in my kingdom.” I think this is one of the greatest half hours of television I’ve seen in my entire life.
The king proceeds to kick some 12-year-old ass, but Aang rallies and gets him in a stalemate situation right before Katara and Sokka are about to die. The King, tricksy devil that he is, demands that Aang figure out what the King’s name is before he lets his friends go. Sokka suggests Rocky, because earthbender, geddit? Aang realizes that all of the trials were designed to make him approach problems from a different point of view, which was what Bumi was all about, meaning the king must be his old friend. Of course, he’s correct. It turns out the “deadly jewelry” was actually just encasing Katara and Sokka in rock candy, which I’m pretty sure is every bit as capable of suffocating someone if you don’t tell them “Hey, you can knock yourself against a wall and it’ll break, FYI” Bumi’s a mad genius with a love of messing with people and just the barest twinge of sadism, and I love it.
Bumi gives us a little exposition before it’s time to go: Aang’s final battle will be against the Fire Lord Ozai, whom I guessing has to be Zuko’s dick of a father.
Please tell me we get more Bumi later on. I want him and Uncle Iroh to be BFFs and put out an album of ’80s ballads together.
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