ATLA 1-12: The Storm

Both Aang and Zuko grapple with how their pasts impact their present.

Last time on Avatar: The trio crossed the Great Divide.

 

Bad Dreams

Aang is flying along on Appa.  Sokka is using Aang’s glider to fly nearby while Katara is riding a giant, soaring Momo.  But suddenly they’re in a massive storm and next Aang is alone on Appa.  Gyatso appears briefly before turning to smoke.  In the midst of the storm, Aang and Appa sink into the ocean, causing Aang to bolt upright as he’s now awake.  The arc words of the nightmare were “we need you”.

This wakes up the siblings, Sokka going sleepily, “Did we get captured again?”

Katara is worried about Aang’s frequent nightmares.  Sokka offers to talk about his dream but when they don’t react he claims he doesn’t want to talk about it.  Once they’re properly up, Katara wants to go to a market to get some food.  This concerns Sokka as food ate people in his dream and that, “Also, Momo could talk.  You said some very unkind things.”

Zuko and Iroh are on the deck of their ship.  When his uncle predicts a storm, Zuko points out there aren’t any clouds in the sky and thus they should head north regardless of the risk to the crew as finding the Avatar is more important than any single individual’s safety.

… Is it bad I can see where Zuko is coming from?  Not just on a personal level, but the Avatar is the biggest threat to the Fire Nation and the one person who could stop their conquest of the other nations permanently.  After Zuko stomps off, Iroh tries to tell himself (and the crewmembers nearby) that his nephew didn’t mean it.

Cloudy Skies and Rainfall

Katara and Sokka can’t afford food so she suggests Sokka get a job.  An elderly couple is squabbling nearby as the wife insists there’s a storm coming but the husband argues that the sky is currently clear.  The wife refuses to go on his fishing trip so Sokka offers to go instead (and get paid for it!).

12FacePalm

Where Zuko’s ship is, there are now clouds.  Zuko is still cranky.  Iroh tries to warn an equally cranky lieutenant non-verbally and then face-palms as the soldier continues to insult Zuko.  So Iroh gets between them and does his best to defuse the situation.  They go in opposite directions, both still in a snit.

Aang frets over Sokka as the teen and elderly man prepare to leave as there are now looming storm clouds.  The elderly man recognizes Aang as the Avatar and snaps at him for disappearing for a century.  On one level, this is understandable.  On another, Aang is twelve years old.  Katara defends Aang, but the boy opts to fly off on his glider.  In response she snaps at the elderly man for upsetting him before getting on Appa to fly after him.  Sokka shows up and is miffed they left without saying goodbye as he missed the exchange.

In the rain, Katara finally finds Aang moping in a cave.  She wants him to open up to her; Momo and Appa offer their sympathy to the boy.  Katara gets the fire started and Aang tells her about how he learned he was the Avatar.

He flashbacks to showing the air scooter move (which he invented) to other air-bender boys when Gyatso and some other senior monks show up, wanting to speak to him.  They go to another chamber and show him his four favorite toys from his childhood… they’re those of past Avatars.  Gyatso uses a storm cloud metaphor to explain why they’re telling him now instead of at sixteen.

The lieutenant is still grumbling about Zuko to a few of his fellows down around a fire barrel in the depths of the ship when Iroh shows up to join them and explain why his nephew is “a complicated young man”.

Iroh flashbacks to the young Prince Zuko wanting to attend a war council meeting as he wants to learn in order to be able to rule the Fire Nation well in the future.  So Iroh agrees to let him attend but warns him not to speak and risk offending anybody.

A general expresses a tactic to use the forty-first division as distraction/bait against some Earth Kingdom forces while a more experienced force later surprises them.  Zuko speaks up to argue against using the forty-first division, which consisted wholly of new recruits, in such a matter when they love and want to serve the Fire Nation.  While Zuko was right, Iroh admits it wasn’t his place to say so publicly and thus there were “dire consequences”.

In the Midst of the Storm

After he was ‘revealed’ to be the Avatar, Aang was treated differently by the other kids and even kept out of their games.  Gyatso and Aang opt to play Pai Cho, and the elderly monk gets the boy to laugh.  But the dour monk from earlier shows up, wanting to resume Aang’s training but Gyatso stands firm that Aang ought to have some play time.

Fire Lord Ozai claimed that Zuko’s words showed “complete disrespect”.  The youth thought the Agni Kai would be against the general who suggested the tactic but as it was the Fire Lord’s war room, the duel turned out to be against his own father.

Gyatso and the dour monk argue before the temple’s leader about how much training Aang should be doing.  The temple leader thinks Gyatso’s judgment is clouded due to his affection for Aang and decides Aang must be sent to the Eastern Air Temple to further his Avatar training- but the boy has been eavesdropping from an upper window.

12AngryAang

Back in the cave, Aang nearly goes into the Avatar mode out of anger after he shouts, “How could they do that to me?  They wanted to take away everything I knew and everyone I loved!”

In the past, Aang mopes on his bed as he watches some boys play on air scooters before flopping onto his bed.  As the sky darkens, Gyatso goes to Aang’s room to express his determination not to be separated from his charge… but Aang is already gone.

Clearly this can’t be part of what Aang is telling Katara unless it’s a hope/fear of his that it happened.  Unless these flashbacks are meant to be objective retellings of the past opposed to subjective ones like those in the previous episode.  Maybe the lack of stylistic change indicates they are indeed objectively recounting the past.  If so, that’s heart-breaking that it’s possible Gyatso would have found a way to stay with him had Aang not fled.

Aang and Appa ended up flying into a storm and sunk into the ocean.  To protect himself he went into the Avatar state and created an iceberg around the two of them… the next thing he knew, he was waking up in Katara’s arms.

In the present, Katara does her best to reassure Aang that maybe it was supposed to happen this way since otherwise he might have been wiped out during the genocide (not that it’s called that in the show but that’s what it was).  Besides, he gives people and the world hope now.

12YoungZuko

A young Zuko pleads for mercy and doesn’t want to fight his father.  Iroh can’t look… but both Zhao and a girl (Azula) look pleased about the Agni Kai’s outcome.  Everybody else in the crowd looks grim.

The lieutenant confesses he thought the scar was the result of a “training accident”.  Please note I miswrote that quote in my live-blog as ‘training respect’ which is what Ozai wanted to do to his son.

“It was no accident,” Iroh confirms.  Since Zuko wouldn’t fight his father, Ozai banished him until he captures the Avatar for showing “shameful weakness”.  Now the soldiers get the prince’s obsession as capturing the Avatar is how Zuko can return to normal.

“Things will never return to normal [for Zuko],” Iroh refutes.  “But the important thing is, the Avatar gives Zuko hope.”

As Zuko meditates in his chamber, a few vaguely sepia-toned images from his childhood occur.

Eye of the Storm

The elderly woman shows up, worried for her husband as the storm is only growing stronger.  Aang and Katara decide to head out to rescue him and Sokka while the elderly woman wants to stay put.

12ShockedIroh

The ship is in the midst of the storm too and everybody has gone on deck as it’s taken damange; Zuko and the lieutenant both go up a ladder when they see the helmsman dangling from above.  Iroh bends a lightning bolt through himself to his shock as seen above.  The duo does rescue the helmsman.

On Appa, Katara and Aang are searching for the boat, which they spot in the distance.  Zuko spots the flying bison but decides to get the ship to safety over chasing the Avatar, thus proving his actions are different from his words.  Iroh is proud of his nephew.

“I’m too young to die,” bemoans Sokka on the fishing boat.

“I’m not, but I still don’t wanna,” agrees the elderly fisherman.

Aang jumps down onto the boat and is setting up for the rescue when they all sink into the ocean.  The boy goes into Avatar mode to save himself and the others.

Zuko’s ship arrives in the eye of the storm, where the teen apologizes to his uncle, who verbally accepts it.  Appa flies out of the ocean nearby; Aang and Zuko look at each other briefly before Appa flies up and out of the storm via its eye.

Elderly woman is happy to see her husband when Appa and the others return to the cave.  It’s revealed here that Aang doesn’t eat meat, not even fish.  To Katara, Aang affirms that he will start focusing on the present instead of the past.

The elderly fisherman thanks Aang for saving his life and acknowledges that if the Avatar hadn’t disappeared a century ago then he wouldn’t have survived the storm.  The storm ends and the view is lovely.  But then Appa shakes water out of his fur onto the humans.

Conclusion

This episode reveals a lot about both Aang’s and Zuko’s pasts and how they influence their present-day lives.  The other senior monks ended up causing so much change in such a short timeframe with the intent to change even more in Aang’s life that the preteen bolted.  And that’s when he and Appa ended up encased in an iceberg.  I can, however, see how they were aware enough of Sozin’s war plans to want to start Aang’s Avatar training prematurely.  Even if it’s pointless for the characters themselves to ask ‘what if’ I am wondering how differently things would have played out had the other monks not vocalized the idea of separating Aang and Gyatso.

Zuko spoke up for the soldiers and got himself scarred and banished by his father as a result.  No wonder he won’t express any sympathy/empathy with his underlings anymore- even if he’ll still act to rescue them.  Although not properly seen, Fire Lord Ozai is heard and he’s voiced by Mark Hamill (AKA Luke Skywalker).  There’s something unnerving about ‘Luke’ taking a role where he acts more like his dad Darth Vader and the Emperor.  In contrast, Azula is properly seen for a few moments, if not identified.  But it’s enough to get a glimpse at her power-hungry and borderline sociopathic nature.  I suspect once the story spreads, the soldiers will be more tolerant of Zuko’s determination to capture the Avatar.

The dour monk was played by James Hong, who also played Chi Fu in Mulan and Mr. Ping in the Kung Fu Panda movies.

While he has a relatively small part in the episode, Sokka got several good lines.  Katara served as a sympathetic ear for Aang to finally open up his past to.  The elderly couple were nice enough, with the husband showcasing how some people might be bitter about Aang’s century-long absence.  Yet twelve is far too young to have the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Sixteen isn’t much better, but the Avatar is young enough at that age to easily learn the other elements and his/her duties but old enough to be mostly responsible about them.

 

Next time on Avatar: When Aang gets captured, the titular being comes to his rescue.

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