The group escapes from the titular location.
Last time on Avatar: Sokka and Zuko went to try rescuing Hakoda from prison.
To mix things up, let’s discuss the two-parter’s page in the art book. It is largely character sketches almost entirely in black-and-white, but there are two background designs of the Boiling Rock. The latter’s captions admit that the location is inspired by Alcatraz. Another caption for sketches of Sokka and Zuko in their guard disguises states “this really reminded us of Han and Luke disguised in stormtrooper outfits”. I think that comment counts as a meta joke, given how Mark Hamill voices Ozai. I’m a bit surprised that this two-parter only got a single page- I suppose the prison’s design was deliberately minimalistic but still. There’s not even a sketch of Suki in her prison uniform and she got a moment to shine by acrobatically making her way up the wall and capturing the warden.
Sokka was understandably smitten; he and the other guys got out of breath by however they made their trip up to the upper level during the prison riot. Yeah, there’s a prison riot, explicitly and repeatedly called so. What’s seen is largely G-Rated, but it makes me wonder just how asleep the censors were while watching this pair of episodes. And how they could sleep, given all the drama and action that takes place?
Hakoda is largely there to be supportive and to off-screen come up with the second escape plan with his son. I’m a bit startled that he didn’t ask after Katara, but hopefully that occurred off-screen and/or he knew that Sokka wouldn’t be quite so pleased (or would be more desperately pleased) to see him if anything had happened to her.
Chit Sang continues to be largely an enigma. He often acts rather ‘dense’ but he didn’t break under whatever treatment the guards inflicted on him, instead taking advantage to accuse the guard who attacked him in the previous episode instead of outing Sokka.
Speaking of whom, it is odd that nobody noticed Sokka’s blue eyes. I’m left wondering if there have been any inter-marriages during the hundred-year-war or before. Legend of Korra confirms that they’ve been happening since the war’s end. Hmm.
The warden alerted his niece Mai to Prince Zuko’s presence. I wonder if he also alerted Azula (given Zuko’s status as a traitor) or if Mai had to do so in order to get to the Boiling Rock.
Mai was the standout character here, expressing her anger with Zuko instead of hiding her feelings (even tossing the break-up scroll at him). Then she saves “the jerk who dumped me” because she knows that Zuko genuinely believes he’s doing this to help the Fire Nation… and maybe because she values her uncle’s life more than he does (in relation to maintaining the Boiling Rock’s record of no escapes). Her usage of knives and acrobatics is truly impressive- the show continues to meet its high standards for fight sequences, as also seen in the fight of Zuko, Sokka, and Suki versus Ty Lee and Azula on the gondola roof.
“I guess you just don’t know people as well as you think you do. You miscalculated. I love Zuko more than I fear you,” she tells the princess.
A furious Azula attempts to lightning-bend Mai (who gets out her blades in a futile effort to defend herself) but Ty Lee chi-blocks her to save Mai’s life. The two girls get surrounded by guards and the prone Azula tells the guards to lock them up to “rot” where she’ll never see them again. I think that indicates that Azula is closer to Ty Lee, since her betrayal caused a lesser punishment for herself and Mai. Or maybe Azula’s initial wrath came from someone picking Zuko over her (a possible sore spot) while she’s more accepting of people picking non-Zuko-people over her. If that makes sense.
Katara, Aang, and Toph only show up in the final scene to be startled and confused. There’s a family hug while Toph is more dismayed that the guys didn’t come back with any meat, apparently not realizing they never meant to go hunting (or she thinks they ought to have made the time to do so).
It’s hard to believe there’s just a single disc of episodes left (plus the bonus disc) for ATLA now. I will concede that the show seems to be more interested in integrating Zuko into the group than building up to the four-part finale… then again, given a revelation early on in the finale, that could be deliberate. Still, putting the emphasis on Zuko over Aang leads to some interesting implications about who the showrunners consider the ‘real’ protagonist out of the duo.
Next time on Avatar: Zuko and Katara team up to find Kya’s killer.