Last time, I spent a bit of time discussing the character of Prince Zuko. This time, I want to say a bit about Sokka.
Up to this point, Sokka has been treated as the comic relief of the Aang Gang. He’s clumsy, often easily trounced by whomever he tries fighting, and he doesn’t seem very bright. And this episode opens with him saying some blatantly sexist stuff about what men and women are good for, respectively. It would be very easy to just chalk Sokka up as the guy who will keep saying dumb things and getting hurt in dumb ways.
Except…he’s not really that guy. Not entirely.
There’s a lot to say about Sokka. But one thing you can’t call him is a coward. He did attempt to take on Zuko and the entire Fire Nation attack force by himself, even getting one good hit in even if it was accidental. He might be stubborn and often wrong, but he’s also not entirely dumb.
In fact, while Katara was monologuing back in the second episode about the need to go after Aang when the Fire Nation took the young Avatar prisoner, Sokka had already started quietly packing and didn’t need any convincing at all.
That brings us to Chapter Four, and we see Sokka again make a fool of himself when the trio are captured by a group of young women fighters, and Sokka’s sexist attitude gets him handed his ass in a sparring match later. But then he does something that, given the run time for the episode, may not be entirely surprising, but still nice: he apologizes and asks to learn their ways, even going so far as to wear their traditional attire. And he does learn their ways, gaining enough respect to get a kiss from his female instructor.
So, Sokka can learn things. He is trying to improve himself, and arguably, he is.
As opposed to Aang, who likewise has a poor idea of how to treat the island of Kyoshi in this episode as a place where he can engage in a lot of screaming fans like he’s being chased by some pre-teen Beatlemaniacs. Now, Aang is (physically if not chronologically) younger and less mature than Sokka, but still, the comic relief learned his lesson faster, and Sokka was able to help out quite a bit when Zuko and his forces showed up again.
By the by, how Zuko learned where Aang was really worked well.
So, yes, points to The Last Airbender for keeping it so these characters are not two-dimensional and simple.