In the third season opener, Aang learns the consequences of Ba Sing Se’s fall.
Last time on Avatar: The heroes had a really bad day.
In Hiding versus Homecoming
Aang, with short brown hair, wakes up on a bed. He’s heavily bandaged and without a shirt. To his panicky confusion, it seems as if he’s on a Fire Nation ship. Weakly he makes his way down a hallway until he’s spotted by a duo in Fire Nation armor. He doesn’t recognize them as Pipsqueak and the Duke. Aang bolts up onto the deck, but to his surprise Momo is there. The flying lemur licks his face.
In reddish cloaks, Katara and Toph approach, the former hugging him. In a Fire Nation helmet, Sokka comes over to give him a hug as well. Overwhelmed, Aang passes out again as Appa makes his way over.
It’s nighttime and Zuko is on a different ship deck. Mai comes over to check that he’s not cold. She’s snarkily amused when he rambles about his concerns in response. They share a kiss before she tells him to stop worrying and walks off.
Awake again on the deck, Aang is confused to Katara’s worry. Hakoda checks on them and introduces himself. Katara is prickly but the two guys clasp forearms, making her pricklier yet. After he walks off, Aang asks if she’s mad at her father. She appears to be honestly baffled by the idea, so Aang just shrugs.
Down in his room, Katara gives him another healing session. He has two flashbacks in the process and realizes that he basically died but Katara brought him back.
On an island, the elderly twins Lo and Li announce what has occurred in Ba Sing Se. There’s a flashback of Dai Li agents bringing down the entrance of the great wall. As the soldiers and tanks enter the city, the worried neighbor, Jin, and the refugee family (Hope and her parents) are seen being afraid. Numerous tanks gather before the palace.
A happy Azula shows up to great cheers and a more apprehensive Zuko shows up to equally loud cheers.
Sokka recaps to Aang what they did after Ba Sing Se fell and the ship is currently in the Serpent’s Pass. The teenager has modified the invasion plan for the day of the eclipse. He’s thrilled that their best secret is that everybody thinks that Aang has died to the younger boy’s frustration despite Sokka pointing out the tactical advantages of it.
When another Fire Nation ship approaches, Aang wants to fight it but he’s still weak. Katara reminds him that the other ship doesn’t know they’re not Fire Nation. Most people hide as the other ship sails closer. Bato and Hakoda try to bluff their way out, but the two soldiers and the captain quickly suspect that something’s up.
Toph overhears their plan to sink the ship so she uses metal-bending to crush the ‘plank’ between them, sending the trio into the water. Katara demonstrates her amazing power as other soldiers rescue the trio.
Zuko is back at the turtle-duck pond, feeding the critters. But they flee when Azula approaches. He’s afraid of meeting with his father. Azula suspects that her brother suspects that the Avatar somehow survived (there’s a flashback of Katara discussing the spirit water with him). She clearly doesn’t believe his denial but ‘reassures’ him regardless.
The battle between the Fire Nation’s ship and the heroes’ is continuing. Toph is a badass while Sokka has Aang stay hidden. The younger boy hits his head against his glider staff. A grappling hook is used on the heroes’ ship, but again Katara is a water-bending master by creating first a whirlpool and then a bunch of mist.
However, one of the fire-balls manages to hit the deck. Sokka is concerned as a friend about Aang getting hurt more and tactically about keeping the Avatar’s survival a secret. As the fight continues, Toph asks, “How we doing?”
“Things couldn’t get much worse,” admits Sokka. Which is a cue for the green serpent to show up.
Sokka complains, “The universe just loves proving me wrong, doesn’t it?”
“You make it too easy,” Toph comments.
When a fire ball narrowly misses the creature, it wraps itself around the Fire Nation ship instead. As they make their escape, Sokka goes, “Thank you, the universe.”
As the ship pulls into a dock at a town, a frazzled Aang is on his bed. When his friends come by, Aang admits that he is hungry. Sokka wants him to wear a headband to hide his arrow, upsetting Aang. Toph and Sokka leave, but Katara lingers to reveal that she gets that Aang is stressing over being secret because he feels he failed and thus tries to reassure him.
Aang states that he has to face the Fire Lord alone and wants Katara to leave. He then states, “I need to redeem myself. I need my honor back.”
Oh, hi parallels between Aang and Zuko. Nice to see you again!
Zuko nervously stands before the entrance to the throne room. He enters to see his father as a shadowy figure on his throne.
When Katara returns with a tray of food, she realizes that Aang is gone. Dropping the tray, she runs up to the deck as Aang is gliding away across the water.
Zuko genuflects before his father. Ozai speaks and I’m just so excited because he’s voiced by Mark Hamill (I can’t wait for The Last Jedi!).
On the deck, Katara is clearly miserable so Bato leaves to give her and Hakoda privacy. Hakoda tries to reassure his daughter, but her despairing speech is clearly as much about Hakoda as it is about Aang. She breaks down, he apologizes, and they hug.
Katara tells her father that she gets why it was necessary for him to leave so she’s upset that she’s upset (if that makes sense). Hakoda reveals that he did miss her and Sokka terribly while they were separated.
As Ozai speaks, Zuko learns that Azula has given him credit for the Avatar’s death.
Aang is gliding low over the waves, reaching a blockade of Fire Nation ships. Inhaling deeply, he swims under them to keep going. I’m reminded of what Zuko did to reach the Northern Water Tribe, but maybe that’s a stretch. Finding a piece of driftwood, he basically uses it as a surfboard as it begins to storm.
Zuko goes to Azula’s bedroom to confront her about the lie (I think Azula was waiting for him, as she wasn’t sleeping despite lying in her bed). Azula claims it was to ensure that Zuko’s homecoming went smoothly. But he mistrusts her enough to know she must have an “ulterior motive”. Azula scoffs at him… but hints that the Avatar being alive would turn the glory into foolishness. She smugly goes back into her bed as Zuko stalks off.
Overwhelmed by the storm, Aang struggles to stay afloat. As he despairs, Roku shows up to reassure him. Aang voices his shame but Roku refutes that he should take the blame, telling Aang that “you inherited my problems and mistakes”. Roku has faith that Aang will redeem them both. Yue show up from the moon to further reassure Aang and tell him not to lose hope. The water calms as Aang regains his confidence to keep fighting.
His powers surge (given that it’s water, I half-wonder if Yue assisted as she’s the moon spirit). Aang rides a giant wave as Yue floats back up to the moon. Ultimately Aang ends up washed up on Crescent Island, where lava is still trickling from the volcano.
Landing on him, Momo licks Aang’s face as it’s morning now. Katara and Sokka go to him, the former hugging him. Toph and Appa soon follow and there’s a group hug. While Katara is reassuring, Toph points out that he can’t get out of training with her that easily. It turns out Aang’s glider staff is broken now.
Aang has accepted that for now, he needs to be a secret and places the glider up near the lava so that it catches on fire.
The third and final season starts off impressively as ever. Zuko is starting to clue in that Azula is not to be trusted, though he still craves his father’s approval and affection despite having been banished by Ozai. In contrast, Katara understands why Hakoda left but still feels abandoned. He assures her that he loves her and Sokka and missed them greatly during their separation.
Aang is still recovering from Azula’s lightning strike. His burns do look painful. His emotional agony about people feeling he’s a failure/absent again is also a factor in this episode.
Katara and Toph have grown into their abilities to be fierce warriors. Sokka has begun to settle into his role as a strategist. All of the Gaang have to step up because they’re nearing the climax of the war.
There was an off-hand reference to the Earth King and his bear going off to travel the world. I guess that makes sense for him, given how he grew up exclusively in the palace, but it still makes him across as not the best leader. Mai and Zuko began dating during the few weeks between “The Crossroads of Destiny” and here. Ty Lee is off-screen entirely. But Bato and Hakoda got some time, with Pipsqueak and the Duke as minor players.
Mostly, this episode acted as a transition between the last season and this one. I can’t believe I’m closing in on the series finale already.
The artbook as always has interesting tidbits and gorgeous art. For example, the Fire Nation is partially inspired by Iceland of all places. The initial few paragraphs on the season include several major spoilers so I won’t discuss them yet. There are several images of Ozai, only one of which is colored. Aang’s, Azula’s, and Zuko’s new looks are seen in color as well as two images of the palace (black-and-white and colored).
Next time on Avatar: There’s a whole episode reference to Footloose.