Dee Discusses: Avatar Book Three: Fire

Posted: January 22, 2015 by Dee in Avatar, Dee, General Media, Television
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I was iffy on Avatar in season one, warmer in season two, and absolutely in love by season three. I’m always impressed by decent shows who manage to grow into great shows, and this is a shining example. Just in time to be over, too! Isn’t that always the way? Considering that the show is only three seasons, it’s impressive how much the characters have developed and changed in that amount of time. None of them are who they were in the pilot. Katara’s had to face her inner darkness and rage, Sokka’s had to stop being the comic relief and come into his own, Zuko’s had to find his own path and fundamentally change his way of thinking, and Aang’s accepted his place as the Avatar. In some ways Aang not changing his mind on killing is an incredible plot point. I remember when he kept refusing, and everyone was going ‘yeah man you have to do this,’ it was frustrating. Even his past lives were saying it! Sometimes you have to do bad things in order to save people. But the beauty of the show is that he didn’t. I think that’s important for a kids show, to say there are no absolutes and hope remains, but we live in a cynical world and it’s also nice to know as an adult. Maybe it’s a little idealistic, but a little idealism never hurt anyone.

In season three, everything comes to a head. Aang must face off against the Fire Lord Ozai who has decided he’s a good, basically. Everyone and their mother keeps telling Aang he has to kill Ozai, it’s the only way to stop him from taking over the world. He refuses because his teaching is that of peace. The Air Tribe was full of pacifists. He struggles at the start of the season because he got soundly trounced by Azula, and nearly killed. So where does he go from there? Meanwhile Zuko starts out as a bad guy again, having gone back to the dark side with his sister Azula, but he eventually realizes that he’s on the wrong side. He chooses to abandon the Fire Kingdom and to join with Team Avatar, becoming Aang’s Fire master. The whole group has troubles with Zuko at first, not trusting him for obvious reasons, but he manages to win them all over by his determination to do the right thing. He sheds off his privilege and his bias because it’s the right thing to do. Kudos. His friendship with Aang is something that would last the rest of their days, something we’ll learn in Korra (spoilers!). Katara learned about bloodbending, which is to this day one of the creepiest things in an animated show. It’s using water in blood to make people into little dolls. Creeeeeepy. She comes to a very dark place this season, all of her anger and bitterness coming to a head. It was good to see her go that far and come out the other side.

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Zuko is not the only person who leaves Team Evil. His girlfriend Mai is also one of Azula’s closest friends, along with Ty Lee, and they both turn against Azula too. Between the only people she cared about abandoning her, her own general psychosis, and feeling power hungry, Azula flat out loses it. It’s terrifying and alarming to watch, I’m impressed with how they handled it. She is violent and out of control and snaps. She nearly kills Zuko, but Katara defeats her. Azula is a fantastic villain. She’s intimidating, lethal, and just interesting enough that you want to see what happens to her. You can see how she was raised to be this way from her father, but there might have always been something off about her. It’s hard to know. Maybe she just inherited her father’s instability and this was the natural conclusion. She was a great secondary villain. Ozai was honestly not that impressive; he was intimidating, sure, but I think Azula was more nuanced so I just sort of shrugged at him. The last fight with him and Aang is a thing of beauty, however, and the answer of energy bending was so great. While a lot of people were annoyed by the turtle islands, I like the general concept of energy bending. They always said the Avatar had a spiritual connection to the world, and so why not have a level of bending that’s only in a spiritual way? He removes Ozai’s bending and takes that power away. Zuko becomes Fire Lord and the war is over. It’s not completely over because now they have to rebuild. That will take a long time.

This was a satisfying conclusion. I know the deus ex machina bothered a lot of people, but I sort of shrugged it off. I think ultimately I am glad that Aang found a way around killing, because of the message it sent, but also because the spiritual side of being an Avatar always intrigued me. Korra would eventually reach a place in her own show where violence was not the only option (spoilers!). I was not a fan of the Aang and Katara pairing, and I still think it’s creepy for them to kiss, he’s just too young, okay, it’s weird. I know they’re not that young, but it feels like they are. I was fine with them as a concept as they grew up together, but right then? Ehhh. I was happy where all the storylines left off. Zuko turning good was a slow process and a believable one. It was important for him to go back to the dark side, I think, because he didn’t get the satisfaction he was looking for. There was an emptiness he couldn’t accept. Katara facing her dark side was also fantastic. Sokka came into his own more and wasn’t just the comic relief. Toph obviously is the biggest badass of all time, considering how much she dominated the fights while being a little blind girl. You’ll always be my favorite, Toph. I ended the series smiling and glad I watched it.

Overall, Avatar’s a great show, and I think everyone should try it. Yes it’s a little childish, especially in the beginning, but it deals with adult storylines in the future. A good show for kids can be a good show for adults too, depending on how the story is told, and it’s a strong story. I was ready to see something a little more adult from them, however, so Legend of Korra is when my passion really ignited. For now though I’ll say that I respect Avatar; it was incredibly diverse, intense, beautifully designed, and had some of the best world building I’ve seen in any fantasy show. There’s so much more I wanted to know about the world, and about the past, and there is still plenty for them to show us. I really need to read the comics. It was fantastic, I loved it, the end.

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