The Gaang deals with “The Drill” and the dangerous ladies behind it.
Last time on Avatar: They traveled across the Serpent’s Pass.
The drill and accompanying tanks are heading across the plain. It entrenches itself and starts to expand towards the wall. This is the beginning of the show trolling the censors. If you don’t get the ‘metaphor’ by reading this review, just go watch the episode itself. If you still don’t get it, then you have an unusually clean mind.
A small ‘cabin’ (?) rises up; within are some crew and War Minister Ching. Azula is on a throne, Mai and Ty Lee seated to either side of her. Ching does an info-dump while Ty Lee is worried about the approaching “muscley guys”. He’s confident that the drill’s metal shell “is impervious to any earth-bending attack”. Azula doesn’t argue with him, but does tell her friends to take them out.
The group is nearing the wall when Aang and Momo fly down to join them. The info dump is skipped over. Aang and Toph take the group up the wall via a chunk of rock; once on the wall, they can see the drill nearby. Ying is afraid that they’re not safe even in Ba Sing Se.
One of the guards approaches the group. They’re on the outer wall. Aang goes to the man in charge, General Sung, who believes the situation is under control. He states, “I assure you, the Fire Nation cannot penetrate this wall. Many have tried to break through it, but none have succeeded.”
Unwittingly defending the honor of her tea buddy, Toph points out, “What about the Dragon of the West? He got in.”
“Well, technically, yes, but he was quickly expunged,” he responds awkwardly. “Nevertheless, that’s why the city is named Ba Sing Se. It’s the impenetrable city. They don’t call it Na Sing Se.”
After a short laugh, he explains, “That means ‘penetrable city’.”
Toph states, “Yeah, thanks for the tour, but we’ve still got the drill problem.”
General Sung reveals that his plan centers on the success of the “Terra Team”. Sokka approves of the name.
Said group of earth-benders attacks the drill to little effect. Mai and Ty Lee show up, readily taking them out. Ty Lee uses her chi-blocking on them.
When General Sung panics, Sokka slaps him and tells him, “Get ahold of yourself, man!”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Toph prods, “Maybe you’d like the Avatar’s help now?”
Heading over to the preteen, he goes meekly, “Yes please?”
There’s some amusing banter between the Gaang about Sokka being the idea guy and the complaining guy.
From Inside Out
At the other side of the ferry, Iroh and Zuko are dealing with another grumpy middle-aged female bureaucrat as they have their passports/tickets processed. Their fakes names are Mushi and Lee. To smooth things along, Iroh gets flirty with her. Zuko face-palms and gets his ticket from his uncle, saying, “I’m gonna forget I saw that.”
Jet approves of ‘Lee’ and wants him to join the freedom fighters. A skeptical Smellerbee wants them to go straight. Although Longshot is silent, Jet concedes to the younger boy, “I can respect that.”
Katara is in the infirmary and can heal blocked chi. The earth-bender reveals they were ambushed by two girls and explains what happened to him. When Katara complains about Ty Lee, she inadvertently inspires Sokka. Toph concurs they need to hit the drill’s “pressure points” and Aang restates the concept.
The quartet heads out beyond the wall. Toph creates a dust cloud for cover as they run towards the drill.
Ty Lee observes the dust cloud and goes “poof” while Ching is reassuring.
They get into a tunnel for further sneakiness. Sokka’s comment about how he can’t see makes Toph snarky so he apologizes. Once under the drill, three of them head into it. Toph opts to stay out since she can’t see or bend in there, instead she’ll try slowing the drill down from outside.
Sokka damages an object to get the engineers’ attention. When one shows up, Katara freezes him so her brother can grab the scroll. Sokka does an info-dump on how the drill works and develops a plan that they need to break through the connected braces to break the drill.
Jet goes to sit next to Zuko at a column as a tea cart rolls by. Iroh gets a cup, but it’s cold to his anger. The two teens end up walking a little way away at Jet’s instigation. Jet makes his offer, but Zuko declines and does so again after the other boy’s spiel.
Iroh now has hot tea to Jet’s shock so he walks off. Zuko gets angry with his uncle for fire-bending his tea and slaps the cup out of his hand.
“I know you’re not supposed to cry over spilled tea, but…” he sniffles before continuing, “It’s just so sad.”
As the drill moves along, the trio reaches a brace. Katara is grumpy but Sokka brushes it off and calls them “Team Avatar”. Aang and Katara work together, water-bending, to wear partially through the brace while Sokka does his best to cheer them on. Both youths are worn out by the time they cut all the way through. The drill rumbles, but then the intercom announces that the drill has reached the wall.
Azula is grim while the trio is afraid. The drill starts to bore into the thick wall, and slurry (rock and water) starts to be made. Sokka tries to physically move the broken brace to no avail.
Aang gets an idea and demonstrates on Sokka. Katara reaches they just have to weaken the braces, not break them. Aang points out how the city and the whole world is depending on them.
Sokka observes, “The world minus the Fire Nation, that is.”
Neither Aang nor Katara is amused by his comment.
Outside the drill, Toph wants “Twinkle toes” to hurry up as her earth-bending isn’t working.
Matters speed up now that they’re just weakening the braces.
From up on the wall, General Sung has his men drop boulders onto the drill.
Anything But Boring
The intercom reveals the frozen engineer and the sabotage to Ching’s concern. Azula, Mai, and Ty Lee head out to find the culprits. When they do, Ty Lee is pleased to see Sokka in particular. He waves before the trio bolts down a passage.
Katara gives Aang her water pouch before he goes one way and the siblings another. Azula heads after Aang while Mai and Ty Lee go after the others. Sokka and Katara reach a hatch labeled “slurry pipeline”. The passage below is mixed rock and water, certain to lead out of the drill so they dive in.
Once at the hatch, Mai refuses to enter no matter how much lightning Azula will throw. Blasé, Ty Lee goes on without her. It’s amusing to see Mai disobey Azula here, considering her later ‘betrayal’ of the other teen.
Aang is hurrying through the drill.
Katara and Sokka end up in a huge puddle of slurry at the drill’s backside. Sokka’s grossed out but his sister’s angry when Ty Lee appears at the pipeline exit. When she forms an orb of slurry to keep Ty Lee in place, Sokka tells her to keep it up as the ‘block’ will build up the pressure.
Aang reaches the top of the drill, having to dodge the falling boulders as he tries to set up to do the final blow. He tries to tell General Sung to stop, but the man orders his men to keep it up.
The siblings are stressed out and Sokka gets slurried by his fed-up sister. Toph shows up to team up with Katara to further build up the pressure.
A worn out Aang wishes he was a metal-bender in a neat bit of foreshadowing. Azula arrives, so it’s time to battle. Aang sends away Momo for the lemur’s protection. The battle is amazing, with matters complicated by the falling boulders. Hit against the wall, Aang briefly blanks out.
Steam billows as the drill pierces through the outer wall.
Azula picks up Aang and is ready to attack. Aang wakes up just in time to use a rock-covered hand to defend himself (another bit of foreshadowing!). Suddenly there’s a lot of slurry, sending them down opposite sides of the drill.
While Azula manages to stop herself, Momo returns to save Aang. Using a newly fallen boulder, Aang shapes it into a pick. He air scooters partway up the wall before running back down. Azula climbs back up to the drill’s top to see Aang running down. Her fire-bending comes too late- Aang drives in the pick and all the braces break.
Several spurts of slurry occur. Toph rises up herself and the siblings on an outcropping of rock to stay safe. Ty Lee hits the outcropping and thus isn’t swept away. Steam emits from the drill before it stops entirely.
Not the End
Covered in slurry, Aang wipes it off his face to grin. Momo perches on the preteen to lick at him.
Both Ching and Sung are shocked at the drill’s demise.
Ty Lee is a mess when Azula arrives. A hatch opens up and poking her upper half out, Mai states, “We lost.”
Smellerbee and Longshot are bemused, as Jet is rightfully convinced that the duo are fire-benders as they get into a train car. Further down, Iroh and Zuko get in as well. They’re sitting next to the refugee family so Iroh coos over the baby to Ying’s pleasure. The train is powered by earth-benders. It takes them to the inner wall, beyond which is the city.
Sokka gives kudos to Katara’s annoyance, as she dislikes the term ‘Team Avatar’. When he suggests ‘Boomerang Squad’, Aang likes it. He continues to make suggestions as they head off the outer wall to finally reach Ba Sing Se.
The actual journeying got put on pause for our heroes as they had to stop a massive drill. While it did pierce the outer wall, the inner wall and Ba Sing Se itself are still safe. The value of teamwork and creative thinking are emphasized yet again. “Team Avatar” works together to take out the drill, and it’s only when the dangerous ladies separate that their efforts falter.
Evidently there’s a fan theory that Iroh deliberately fire-bended his tea to keep Jet away from a vulnerable Zuko. Given how Iroh emphasized second chances last episode, that seems out of character to me. We’ve seen the risks he’ll take for a good cup of tea in “The Cave of Two Lovers”.
This episode has a two-page spread in the art book. The left-hand page has two background images- that of the side of the wall facing the space leading to the city, and the train track, which resembles a Roman aqueduct. Both are lovely, though largely in brown hues. The facing page has a lot of imagery for the drill, most of it in black-and-white, and two ‘perspectives’ of the frozen engineer in white, blue, and orange (for “high light”).
Overall, the plot is moving along for all the characters. Iroh, Zuko, and the Gaang all believe they’re safe from the Fire Nation for the time being due to reaching Ba Sing Se. The latter want to get the information on the eclipse to the Earth King. Jet is correctly convinced that Iroh and Zuko are fire-benders, but Smellerbee and Longshot are skeptical. No word on where the rest of the Freedom Fighters are. Azula continues to want to take out her brother, the Avatar, and the Earth Kingdom (quite possibly in that order) with the aid of Mai and Ty Lee.
Next time on Avatar: Ba Sing Se isn’t the haven the Gaang thought it would be.