While I have liked Avatar: The Last Airbender quite a bit, I have noted that while Sokka, Zuko, and Aang have been fairly well-developed, multi-faceted characters, Katara is something of another story. She’s been the strong, hopeful true-believer since day one, the one who holds the others together when things get bad, and the one who won’t take “no” for an answer. That’s fine. She’s been a solid character, but I felt she could have been given a bit more development.
And then this episode happened.
Mostly, this episode sets the stage for what’s to come. Aang, growing his hair back, wakes up on a Fire Nation ship. He’s been out for a while, the Earth Kingdom has fallen, and he’s still injured from Azula’s lightning strike. However, it isn’t what it looks like: Sokka and Katara’s father and his Southern Water Tribe soldiers captured the boat during the siege of Ba Sing Se and are using it to gather friends and allies to pull off Sokka’s plan to invade the Fire Nation during the eclipse. They’ll just be using a much smaller force than anticipated. In the meantime, their secret weapon is the Avatar, believed dead, isn’t. Now Aang just has to stay “dead”.
Meanwhile, Zuko has returned home a hero, and his father the Fire Lord gives him his honor back. But it clearly doesn’t feel right to the young man, especially since Azula claimed Zuko is the one that killed Aang while assisting her in the conquest of Ba Sing Se. Azula doesn’t do things like that for any reason other than her own benefit, so that doesn’t make sense.
But one of the many things I dig about The Last Airbender is while these characters are often impetuous or immature, none of them are stupid. Sure, Sokka has his moments, but beyond that, these are smart people who just sometimes do dumb things. Zuko remembers Katara had the sacred water and Aang might still be alive. Azula obviously didn’t give Zuko help out of the goodness of her heart: if Aang turns up alive, Zuko gets blamed, and I am sure she will hold that over her brother’s head in the future. And Aang is ashamed because he lost his own honor.
Zuko gains honor while Aang loses his? There’s a change of pace.
But then there’s Katara. She’s mad at her father.
And I loved this moment.
Katara is mad her father left to go fight in the war. Now, she knows full well that this anger is irrational, that he had a good reason to leave, and he wouldn’t if he didn’t have to fight in the war. And after a good cry, she calms down, but I love that she was irrationally angry and she knew it was irrational. Too many other shows would have had someone explain how irrational she was being. Here, she sees it in herself.
So, how do things go down? Aang runs off on his own, but he’s still hurt and nearly drowns. Visions of Roku and Princess Yue set him straight, and when he wakes up on Roku’s volcanic island, he finds his friends–Toph, Sokka, Katara, Appa, and Momo–waiting for him. Calmer now, Aang agrees to go undercover in the Fire Nation to learn firebending and even tosses his glider into the magma to burn. The Aang Gang is back, and their own a deadline.