ATLA 2-20: The Crossroads of Destiny

Zuko makes poor life choices and Azula’s victory means the season ends on a sad note for our heroes.

Last time on Avatar: Aang learned about chakras while his friends had adventures.

 

This is an emotionally compromising episode for me, so it’ll be different and shorter than usual.  Also, I now have a job which means less time (and energy) for this blog.  I won’t be abandoning it (because I want to keep watching my shows among other reasons) in the foreseeable future.

I get where Zuko is coming from- for years he’s been trying to regain his place as crown prince, and probably even before that he sought his father’s approval.  He’s currently unaware that it’s a futile effort to tragic consequences.  And now Katara’s going to be utterly wrathful towards him.

In contrast, Sokka’s efforts to gain Hakoda’s approval aren’t in vain because Hakoda cares for and respects Sokka to begin with.  It’s less clear at this point what sort of bond Katara and Hakoda have.  Toph is probably realizing that it’s futile to make amends with her parents, but that plotlet is largely off-screen from here on out.

Iroh, although he had the best of intentions, did try to guide Zuko down the path he deemed best for his nephew- that of a tea shop employee.  Zuko ended up defaulting to trying to meet the expectations (really a wild goose chase) of his father instead.  Iroh’s fire-bending mastery was showcased here, what with his nickname Dragon of the West turning out to be at least partially due to his ability to breathe fire.  However, Iroh forgot to let Zuko make his own life choices and started making them for him in his excitement to have a tea shop of his own.

Long Feng continued to be ‘meh’ in my eyes.  Azula easily outmaneuvered him and now the Fire Nation has conquered Ba Sing Se.  Similarly, she took out Aang before he could go into the Avatar State and stop her.

The Episode V parallels are strong: Aang’s return heralds to Luke’s departure despite Yoda’s warnings, and furthermore Aang’s near-death experience syncs up to Han Solo’s freezing in carbonite.  Instead of the reveal of a paternal identity, Zuko chose to resume trying to gain his father’s approval.  Given who plays Ozai, I highly doubt the parallels are coincidental.

One page in the art book is devoted to the Ty Lee versus Sokka fight (one column of still images from the choreographing, one of rough sketches, and one of screen-caps from the final product).  The next page shows Aang’s ‘burned’ look, Katara’s roughed-up attire, and Aang’s crystal armor as well as three backgrounds of the underground caverns with “phosphorescent crystal”.  The caption reveals that the original settlement of Ba Sing Se was here opposed to on the surface.

There’ll be a season summary post before I embark on the third and final season of ATLA.  This is a great season finale, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just so intense.  Also, Zuko’s poor life choices- however understandable- make me cringe in sympathy for everybody impacted by them (except Ozai).

 

Next time on Avatar: Aang, well, wakes up while Zuko tries to adapt to being a prince again.

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