May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Avatar: The Last Airbender “Spirited Away”

Season One, Episode Five

OK, how about a trip to the spirit world?

What this episode does is do a decent-to-good job of worldbuilding.  Yes, I recognize a lot of what is happening here, but this time around, Aang goes into the spirit world to find out what happened to some villagers who disappeared while looking for food only to accidentally bring Sokka and Katara along for the ride.  That makes for a nice twist and allows for some character growth in ways that the original series couldn’t or wouldn’t show.  Basically, that means showing the lowest moment for both siblings, and both are attached to a parent.

For Katara, it was when she watched a firebender kill her mother right in front of her.

For Sokka, it was learning he did pass his initiation into adulthood, but did so in a manner that disappointed just about everyone involved, including his father.

OK, Sokka’s thing is terrible, but Katara’s is worse.  These incidents do have the side effect as they not only make the siblings feel terrible, but they also allow the Face Thief (here voiced excellently by George Takei) to capture both of them, and by episode’s end, Aang hasn’t rescued them yet.  The Face Thief is one of the more memorable dangerous spirits in the spirit world, and it looks like it’s fortunate for Sokka and Katara that the rules for how he steals a face have changed.  He also apparently has all those villagers, so Aang better figure something out fast.

However, this episode does a lot of set-up for future plotpoints, and I think it does OK there.  Iroh hires bounty hunter June to find the Avatar for himself and Zuko.  So, does Iroh want to bring the Avatar back to Ozai?  I’m not 100% sure there, but it sure looks that way.  He’s not hitting on June this time around, I’ll say that.  Meanwhile, Azula is trying to manipulate her father into something, and while she is successful, he also berates her by comparing her to her honorable brother Zuko, and the idea that Ozai plays both of his children off against each other makes so much sense I am surprised I didn’t see it before.  Ozai was never going to be father-of-the-year material, but the way he speaks to his daughter, I just somehow suspect he spoke similarly to his son once upon a time.  Regardless, Iroh is being more helpful to Zuko’s quest and not to heal Zuko’s damaged spirit or something than I would have thought.  Maybe he needs to change a bit more too.

Likewise, Sokka met Princess Yue a bit early from the looks of things.  Sort of.  And hey, let’s bring in the library spirit while we’re at it.

If anything, Aang gets a meeting with his old mentor Gyatso, a man who should be long dead, and can still bring a smile to the boy’s face with a bit of needed perspective.  Aang needs to talk to another past life in the form of Avatar Roku, and that means letting the Face Thief keep his prey for now and getting back before he starts stealing more faces or something.  I’m still not 100% sold on the need for this version of the story, but I will say I may be at about 85%.