ATLA 3-9: Nightmares and Daydreams

Aang’s inability to get a sound sleep leads to hallucinations.  Meanwhile, Zuko realizes his ‘dream life’ is not what he thought it’d be.

Last time on Avatar: There was blood-bending.

Almost Time

The Gaang has reached the island inhabited by fluffy koala-sheep that’s the predetermined meeting point for the invasion in four days.  Sokka goes to sleep, and the girls lay down to rest as well.  Aang tries to sleep, only to have an anime-inspired dream of facing off against a giant Fire Lord where he’s suddenly not wearing pants and lots of eyes are briefly seen as the Fire Lord laughs (evilly, of course).  Waking up, Aang checks that he’s wearing pants.  Momo chitters at him and the preteen decides to train.  As he kicks at a bush, the flying lemur goes back to sleep.

Zuko gets dressed by servants, brushing off various fawning requests though he does accept a hot towel to brush his brow with.  There’s a cheering crowd when he steps out of the giant gate.  One servant stresses that royalty must use palanquins though Zuko notes that it’s a short trip to Mai’s.  And indeed, she’s waiting for him at the top of the stairs at the house across the street.

Aang is punching a tree, causing leaves to fall, as it’s now daylight.  The others wake up and are confused.  One punch causes all the leaves to fall from the tree.  Although Aang wants to be ready to fight Ozai, Katara is concerned about over-training.  A very stressed Aang has a twitchy eye.  Sokka manages to be both reasonable and snarky.  The younger boy continues to be hyperactively stressed.

That night, Aang tries to stall by saying good night to everybody until Toph shouts at him to “Go to sleep already!”  He has another anime-inspired dream of confronting Fire Lord Ozai.  This time he has on chains and a lock to ensure his pants stay on.  The lock is in a place that makes me wonder if the censors were sleeping (again).  Along with a giant abacus, Ozai brings up the math test.  Waking up, Aang goes to train near a group of sleeping koala-sheep.

Katara wants Aang to go back to sleep.  His response of “But I forgot my pants and math test” isn’t very reassuring.  She gets him to sleep for her.

Zuko and Mai are cuddling on a couch- he orders a fruit tart with rose petals for her from the servants (daw).  Apparently Azula mentioned an upcoming all-day war meeting to Mai, leading Zuko to surmise that he’s not invited.

There’s a more realistic Ozai seen… but he’s on a fire-breathing cow-hippo.  He claims that Aang overslept and missed the invasion.  A panicky Aang wakes up and reveals that he also had a dream where Sokka being unable to climb quickly enough to save himself from Fire Nation soldiers.

I’m guessing the show is only showing the humorous dreams, but yeah… Aang is fully aware of how dangerous this invasion will be for his friends.  Another dream had Toph stop to use the bathroom, ruining the invasion.  A third had Katara’s loose hair get caught in a train.  Sokka slips down the cliff, highlighting that maybe his climbing skills really aren’t the best.

Aang is very stressed and Sokka isn’t helping.  Katara has a plan involving yoga stretches in extreme heat (it looks like the stone structure was earth-bent by Toph around a steam vent).  She leads Aang in doing the motions, but he remains frazzled.

9Therapy

Wang Fire returns as Aang’s therapist.  He rests his arms on one koala-sheep while Aang rests his head on another.  A third is used as a pillow for Aang to scream into, the koala-sheep remaining blasé.

Mind Games

Azula is getting her hair washed by servants when Zuko shows up to complain.  Evidently nobody told Zuko about the upcoming meeting, while Azula admits she was invited.  Further offended, Zuko is set on not going since he’s not wanted there anyway.  I have to wonder if Azula told somebody she’d tell her brother about the meeting and then deliberately didn’t, since such meetings ought to be told about so that people can attend.  Yes, it’s later shown that as crown prince Zuko is expected to attend, but he has to be told about when/where such meetings will be so that he can attend.

Toph bends rock pillars onto Aang’s back in an effort to de-stress him, but it only hurts his “baby skin” (Toph’s words).  She somehow bends a porcupine-inspired critter into her hand so they can try acupuncture, causing Aang to flee.

Zuko is staring out a window that night.  Mai brings up that he likely made the right choice, considering how the last war meeting he attended turned out.  I’m pretty sure that only worsened Zuko’s mood.  She tries to get jokey (and/or likes being spoiled by royal servants) but Zuko’s not in the mood for that or for physical affection.  It’s a bit tragic how Mai is trying to open up to/for Zuko but he’s closed off.

That night, Aang feigns being less stressed so they all go to sleep.  Aang and Appa are in a storm with a giant grabby Momo.  Things get weirder from there- an eyeless Toph sinks down, Sokka gets swallowed up by slime, and Katara is surrounded by flames.  There’s a laughing Fire Lord and Aang ends up underwater.  On the ice above is Zuko as he was during the Northern Water Tribe invasion.  There’s a flaming comet, Momo goes “shh”, and a meteor strike causes a landscape to turn black and fiery.

Aang’s scream as he wakes up causes everybody else to wake up, even (especially?) Appa.  He decides to stay up until after the invasion.  The next day, Katara is worried about him.  He confesses his love to her, she kisses him back, and they embrace.  Gooey phrases of affection occur, including Aang saying “Baby, you’re my forever girl”.

Evidently Aang drifted off into a daydream and he fibs that it was about living underwater, which obviously the water-bender finds a “cool” concept.

It turns out that the war meeting won’t begin until Zuko shows up when a servant comes to get him.  Both Mai and Zuko are pleased by this.

Just a Dream…

Having pinned his noodle art of Ozai to a stump, Aang is training against it with air gusts.  They all miss the target, one knocking over Sokka as he works.  He calls out, “Hey, I’m trying to build Appa some armor here so he doesn’t have to go into the invasion naked!  He’s your bison.”

Out of it, Aang attacks the picture again but misses again.  He yells at it, causing Momo to talk to him.  Aang’s initially freaked out, but Momo resumes chittering (or rather, Aang properly hears what Momo is ‘saying’ again).  He starts to chitter back at the flying lemur.  Katara, Toph, and Sokka all express their concern about Aang.  Up on two legs, Appa agrees with them.  Momo and Appa start arguing.  Aang is freaking out to Sokka’s confusion.

Now in samurai garb, Appa and Momo fight with swords (due to having extra ‘hands’ Appa has four swords, not one like Momo).  There are two factions of koala-sheep, each cheering on one of them.  Aang tries to break up the fight.  A six-armed Guru Pathik briefly shows up.  Rock snakes appear as the fight continues, plus the Ozai-picture stump is mobile now.  Panicked, Aang runs away.

Zuko has left the meeting… and Mai is waiting for him by a pillar.  Their relationship is really quite cute.  He opens up to her about what happened and stares up at his father’s painting.  Zuko is upset that by being his father’s “perfect son” meant he wasn’t himself.  And he’s finally gotten a clue- that what his father wants from him is for him to not be who he truly is.

That night, Aang finds a rock covered in soft koala-sheep wool.  Initially he thinks it’s another hallucination, but his human friends made it for him.  There’s a cluster of shivering, shorn koala-sheep nearby.  Aang is still stressed as the invasion is tomorrow.

“I don’t need sleep.  What I need is practice.  Quick, hit me.”

However, he’s all wobbly.

“I’m not going to hit you,” Katara replies.

“You want me to do it?”

Sokka nudges at Toph to shut her up, which is adorable and amusing.

“Listen to me,” Katara tells Aang.  “You’ve been training for this since the day we met.  I’ve seen your progress.  You’re smart, brave, and strong enough.”

“You really think so?”

“We all do,” Sokka concurs.  “You can do this.  You’re ready.”

“You’re the man, Twinkle Toes.”

Thanking his friends, Aang goes to sleep on the super-soft bed.  Now certain he’s ready, his new anime-inspired dream has Ozai not wearing pants, leading to the sleeping Aang to smile.

Conclusion

Well, this was a fun breather episode before the serious two-parter to mark the season’s halfway point.  I could tell that Mark Hamill was having a lot of fun with the lines of dream-Ozai in particular.  And the animators had a lot of fun designing the hallucinations, which made them fun to watch.  I didn’t do justice to the sheer hilarity of Aang’s hallucinations- they have to be seen to be believed.

Zuko finally got a clue in that his father’s expectations involve him not being himself.  The contents of the war meeting weren’t seen or discussed here.  Mai and Zuko’s interactions were sweet and endearing.  Similarly, Aang is extra smitten with Katara here… though that line about him mostly doing this for the people he loves rather than for the world indicates that he really did miss what the Guru was trying to teach him about detachment.

One page in the art book is entirely devoted to Aang’s dream-looks, dream-Ozais, an iced-over Aang (part of one of his nightmares), and a black-and-white sketch of the exhausted Aang.  The facing page has storyboards of the Appa versus Momo fight as well as various sketches of their hallucinatory looks.  Apparently Momo originally had two blades, not one.  A caption highlights that Dee Bradley Baker properly voiced them here as well as doing their noises as usual.

Aang’s insecurities were shown here- he knows he’s a comparatively unskilled Avatar at this point.  He’s a master of air, yes, but he’s still learning water and earth while he doesn’t even know the basics of fire-bending yet.  Little does he know that he’ll be getting his fire-bending teacher soon, from the most unlikely person.  Muhahahaha.

I have to admit, it would have been an interesting twist if Aang had managed to defeat Ozai in the upcoming two-parter, leaving the remaining ten episodes to be about restoring the world’s balance post-war.  But that’s what the comics are for!  Um… sorry about the spoiler?  Except it’s pretty clear that the Big Bad can’t be defeated halfway through the final season.

Obviously, the episode title largely refers to what Aang undergoes… but I suspect it also is a reference to how the life Zuko dreamed of regaining for so long turned out to not be what he thought it’d be.  Similar to the spirit world, sometimes in his dreams Aang looks like he did in the first two seasons.

Next time on Avatar: The invasion begins!

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