In a nice move, Princess Yue’s betrothed, the guy who wouldn’t listen to or respect Sokka for Sokka’s knowledge on the Fire Nation and Admiral Zhao, is more or less disposed of inside of a minute when he charges the Admiral and Zhao just steps aside and lets the fool fall overboard.
Look, we know that guy wasn’t going to be the savior for the day, but likewise, we see some things in this episode we haven’t seen before. We see Katara defeat Zuko in a bending battle. We learn Zuko has a sister who their father seemed to love more and who never had to work for anything, unlike Zuko who had to push himself to the limit to to get where he got and earned it all.
We see what would make Iroh angry.
We see how big a fool Zhao actually is.
And we see the price of keeping the moon alive.
Aang, while a terror on the battlefield when Zhao does the unthinkable and kills the Moon Spirit, does not save the day as he channels the Ocean Spirit. True, his trip to see the Facestealer is cool, and it’s always nice to see the return of the cuddly panda spirit, especially when it goes to its monster form to punish a jerk talking monkey spirit. But all Aang does is thrash the Fire Nation’s navy and drive it away from the Northern Water Tribe’s city. True, that’s important, but the real problem is Zhao realized the two koy fish in the pond for the Northern Water Tribe’s sacred green spot were the Moon and the Ocean.
And threatening to kill the Moon is what sets Iroh off. It’s about balance. Iroh knows the spirits. Sure, destroying the Moon will defeat the Northern Water Tribe. It will also cause problems for everyone else, including the Fire Nation. And seeing Zhao’s actions first turn the Moon red and later the world almost colorless are more nice touches.
So, when Zhao actually does kill the Moon, that just makes everything worse.
Until Princess Yue, already embodied by a piece of the Moon Spirit, essentially sacrifices herself to revive the Moon. Yes, she shares a final kiss with Sokka, but she’s not human anymore. She’s a spirit, and she saved the day.
Plus, Zhao (probably) died when the Ocean Spirit took him away. Zuko tried to save him after their apparently final duel, but Zhao rejected the offer.
So, now what for our heroes? Since Pakku is going to the Southern Water Tribe to help them rebuild, Katara is named a waterbending master and she can train Aang. They leave with Sokka to continue Aang’s training elsewhere. Zuko and Iroh are on their own, still looking to bring the Avatar back to the Fire Nation, and therein lies a bigger problem.
See, the Fire Lord decided the two are traitors. And he’s sending Zuko’s previously mentioned sister off to get both of them.
Seems like a good place to end Book One.