ATLA 2-4: The Swamp

The Gaang gets lost in the titular location.

Last time on Avatar: Azula recruited Ty Lee and Mai; the Gaang helped the citizens of Omashu escape.

 

Lashing Out

There’s an overhead view of some rice paddies and the nearby village.  A cart selling masks passes by a street.  Zuko, Iroh, and their stolen steed are alongside it.  Iroh is begging for coins to Zuko’s frustration as they’re royalty.  One nice lady drops in some change, but then a scornful guy with twin swords wants to be entertained in exchange for giving them a gold piece.

He uses said swords to compel Iroh to dance as he sings.  Laughing, the guy continues to dismiss the duo but does give them a gold piece.  His uncle has been serene throughout as he knows true dignity and self-worth comes from within, but the less enlightened Zuko is angry.

Appa is flying along.  Katara is reading a scroll while Sokka sharpens his boomerang.  The reins in his hands, Aang stares down at the swamp and starts to subconsciously steer Appa downward to the siblings’ confusion.  Aang thinks the swamp is calling for them to land there.

Sokka and Katara are both uneasy about the swamp while Appa lets out a roar.  Aang opts to go along with the majority and not land in the swamp.  Thus a tornado comes out of nowhere, heading towards them.  While never explained in-show, I suspect it’s the swamp forcing Aang to land.

Aang creates a ‘bubble’ of air-bending to protect everybody but it ends up failing once Appa is within the tornado.  The three humans land in one spot, Aang calling out for Appa and Momo.

Katara alerts Sokka to an elbow leech on him in a funny bit.  Aang comes back down from the trees to report he can’t see Appa or Momo but the tornado is gone as well.

4Appa&Momo

Appa is tangled among vines elsewhere in the swamp.  Momo chews through enough of them to free the larger creature.  The flying bison tries to take off only to get trapped in vines again, thus causing the process to start over.

Sokka is recklessly slicing through the vines to get through.  Katara and Aang think the swamp is alive to his skepticism.  Unknown to the trio, somebody is watching them.

Appa is walking along with the flying lemur on his back.  When the flying bison flops over, Momo uses the air bison whistle twice.  The second time, Appa uses his tail to give the smaller creature a literal smack down.

Katara calls for Appa and Momo as it is now foggy and dark.  Sokka gets attacked by bugs.  Then there’s swamp gas as well as a small, rotund bird with a terrifyingly loud scream.  Sokka starts to slice up wood for a fire.  Aang is more dubious than ever, with Sokka being snarky about having permission from the swamp to cut up firewood.

The trio sits around a fire.  Katara feels watched but her brother shrugs off the sentiment.  When there’s a mysterious bright orb, the trio can briefly see a lot of creature eyes in the dark staring at them.

Elsewhere in the swamp, its creatures are making a racket until Appa roars.  Then it’s quiet, although Momo soon perks up for some reason.

Visions

Aang, Katara, and Sokka are sleeping back-to-back when vines start to twine around each of them to pull them in separate directions.  Sokka runs from the vines, Katara uses water-bending to free and defend herself, and Aang uses air-bending and leaps from branch to branch in an effort to escape.

Two of the swamp residents, Tho and Due, find Appa’s footprints and want to eat the giant creature that made them.

Appa is swimming along.  Momo goes off to bug-hunt, only to nearly get eaten by a catfish-gator when it chases him.  Appa ends up spitting out the attacker.  Momo hisses as it swims away, Appa growling as well.

Katara is wandering around, looking for the two guys.  She spots someone in the distance that she recognizes as the back of her mom.  She runs up joyously, but it turns out to be a narrow, tall stump.  The teen breaks down crying as a result.

Sokka is cranky as he struggles through the swamp.  He encounters a glowing Yue and promptly goes into denial, trying to come up with a rational explanation.  She tells him, “You didn’t protect me.”

When he rubs his eyes, she disappears only to briefly see her again when he turns around.  Uneasy, he gets his boomerang back out.

Aang briefly spots a strange girl and a flying pig.  He gives chase after the laughing girl through the trees.

Appa is floating along with Momo on him when they encounter the canoes of the swamp residents.  Tho and Due are among them, and they want to catch and eat Appa.  The air bison promptly swims away, leading to the reveal that they are water-benders, or as the art book calls them, swamp-benders.  A chase begins.

Meanwhile, Aang is still chasing the laughing girl and wants to know who she is.  He runs into Katara, and their momentum carries them into Sokka.  Aang explains what he saw.  Sokka snaps about there being a “tea party” they weren’t invited to but grows more gentle when Katara admits she saw Mom before admitting he saw Yue.

The visions have led them to the swamp’s heart, which is a massive tree.  Sokka remains in denial about this being deliberate.

Everything is Interconnected

The swamp creature rises up, making the trio scream.  It attacks, primarily going after Sokka.  Aang and Katara do their best against the being.  Sokka is being pulled into the vines that make up the creature.

The swamp-benders continue to chase Appa and Momo, the latter throwing the humans’ items at their chasers in an effort to stall/stop them.  Momo ends up captured as Appa continues to flee.

Aang ends up tossed aside and one of Katara’s water-bending attacks briefly reveals that someone is within.  Sokka puts together that person is controlling the vines.  Katara keeps fighting.  When Aang returns, he expresses his frustration about being called here only to be killed.

“Wait.  I didn’t call you here,” reveals the man.

“We were flying over and I heard something calling to me, telling me to land.”

“He’s the Avatar.  Stuff like that happens to us a lot.”

The guy wants the Avatar to come with them, revealing he was protecting the swamp from Sokka’s harm.  In the past, the tree called Huu to him to Sokka’s skepticism.  Huu explains this tree spread out and thus the massive swamp is one organism.  Everything here is interconnected and so is everything in the whole world as “we are all branches of the same tree”.

Huu explains, “In the swamp, we see visions of people we lost, people we loved, folks we think are gone, but the swamp tells us they’re not.  We’re still connected to ‘em.  Time is an illusion and so is death.”

Aang asks after his vision and Huu tells him he’s the Avatar so he should tell him.  The preteen pieces together that he saw someone he will meet.  When reminded by Sokka, Aang ends up using his Avatar powers to find where Appa and Momo are.  Appa has been captured by the swamp-benders.

The swamp-benders are sailing along when Aang and Katara show up.  When both sides use water-bending, Tho and Due realize this makes them kin to her discomfort.  Sokka and Huu show up, the latter’s name revealed for the first time.

That night, it’s time for a non-Appa dinner.  To the swamp-benders, the catfish-gators are pets.  As they talk, Sokka is generally snarky and grumpy and still in denial.  It’s not helping that they’re eating fish and “giant bugs.  Aang reminds the older boy about how he found Appa and Momo.

4Dismissal

“That’s Avatar stuff, that doesn’t count,” Sokka dismisses the point.  “The only thing I can’t figure out is how you made the tornado that sucked us down.”

Huu points out he can just bend the water in the plants, so it wasn’t him.  Sokka decides that it was just some odd weather.

The tiny bird from before does its scream, leading a vine to slap it.  I half-wonder if that was Huu’s doing or if the swamp is truly alive.

Also that night, the Blue Spirit attacks the arrogant snob from the first scene and steals his twin blades.

Conclusion

While I’m pretending not to know the girl’s name here, I will point out that among the ‘additional voices’ was Jessie Flower.  I have to wonder if her presence is because she- or rather, her role- is someone Aang is currently looking for and doesn’t know if he’ll ever find.

I love how Appa and Momo got their own little storyline here; it’s sweet what good friends they are.  Zuko bookends with the episode, with Iroh only showing up in the opening scene.  It’s clear that Zuko is frustrated in general and will lash out given any provocation.  Iroh, in contrast, knows his own value and thus doesn’t care what others think of him.

Katara clearly misses her mother a lot, while Sokka feels like he failed Yue.  I think his vision was the darkest because of his attitude towards the swamp as the actual Yue was willing in her sacrifice.

The art book includes several sketches of the swampy backgrounds, black-and-white and colored.  There’s also some art work of the swamp monster and the swamp-benders.  Apparently Due and Tho were based off of other Nickelodeon show creators after there was a “caricature war” between one of them and the Avatar crew.

The importance of everything and everyone being interconnected and balance are two of the major theme in both Avatar series.  The final Legend of Korra season is called Book of Balance, after all.

 

Next time on Avatar: The Gaang finds a village with a grudge against the Avatar due to Kyoshi’s long-ago actions.

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