You know something? This episode would have probably been a hell of a lot creepier if this wasn’t a family-friendly show.
It fits that the creepiest episode of the series thus far opens with some ghost stories as Sokka tries and fails to scare the others around a campfire, Katara tries and succeeds, and Toph says she feels people moving around underground. Toph says she’s being serious, too.
Toph isn’t the type to tell stories like this. If anything, she’s baffled by the experience, but it turns out there is an explanation for all this, and it starts to come around when an old woman named Hama shows up. She’s the local innkeeper, and she seems awfully friendly. There’s a few things happening here, most notably when the kids accompany Hama into town and they overhear something about a spirit that makes people disappear if they wander outside the village during nights of the full moon, and that event is coming along very soon.
Hama, it should be noted, has a closet full of puppets. She’s also a member of the Southern Water Tribe, the last of the Southern Tribe’s waterbenders to be taken away by the Fire Nation years ago. She picked up a few tricks along the way, including taking water directly from living things, a trick she shows Katara even if it kills a field full of flowers.
The long and the short of it is Hama is nuts. She managed to escape a Fire Nation prison by teaching herself bloodbending, a feat that allows her to control the motions of other people. There’s no spirit taking people away. It’s been Hama, locking folks from the local village into a makeshift prison underground. It’s punishment for what the Fire Nation did to her even thought these villagers are totally innocent of what happened.
It’s a lot like Jet’s backstory, only more over-the-top since Jet was more like a run-of-the-mill rebel rebelling against everything while Hama is locking people up. Jet’s actions would have killed people, but he didn’t cackle like a witch and try to force Sokka and Aang to kill Katara with that bloodbending since, you know, the full moon makes waterbenders stronger.
Granted, that includes Katara, and she does defeat Hama by using bloodbending herself, making Hama happy even as she’s led away in handcuffs. Katara cries, Hama thinks she’s won, and I just sat there thinking if this wasn’t a kid’s show, Hama would have been making people explode or something.
So, really, this was one dark episode that, but for the TV-G rating, could have gone a whole hell of a lot darker.