Zuko reveals why Ozai must be stopped now to the others. Ozai’s first step is to make himself “The Phoenix King”.
Last time on Avatar: The meta episode occurred!
Hilariously, the commentary stresses at the beginning that there won’t be a “Book of Air”. Clearly, the co-creators weren’t planning on The Legend of Korra yet. There’s also acknowledgement about Suki joining the group.
The early part of the episode is a ‘breather’, complete with most of the Gaang deciding to hold a “beach party”. Aang makes a sand-Appa, Toph a sand-city, and Sokka a failure at Suki (she approves, though). The miscommunication comes in that Zuko didn’t get told about the plan to wait until after the comet to fight the Fire Lord as Aang is still mastering Water and Earth while he’s barely started to learn Fire.
This leads to a very nifty fight sequence between Aang and Zuko. Due to Aang’s ‘beach look’, the scars left by Azula’s lightning strike are showcased. The commentary admits that the previously referred-to war meeting wasn’t originally meant to tie in to the finale, but it was realized that it could fit in.
The others thought that fighting the Fire Lord before the comet was about keeping the Fire Nation from winning the war and now they basically have, so things can’t get worse. There’s a flashback to the war meeting itself, where Zuko accidentally inspired his sister and father into using the comet to raze the Earth Kingdom by his admittance that they can endure anything as long as they have hope.
The commentary stresses the importance of a beginning, middle, and end. Stories have to have a final goal to be achieved for them. I think the rockier development for The Legend of Korra reflects that.
“Air, Water, Earth, Fire, Fan and Sword!” is the current make-up of the Gaang, as stated by Sokka. Zuko gets pulled into a group hug, which Appa joins in with.
Later, Zuko mentors Aang on redirecting lightning in a courtyard, telling him about how Iroh made the move as well as a flashback to Zuko redirecting his father’s lightning just past the eclipse. When Aang brings up the “Spirit Water”, Katara has to admit that she used it up at the end of the previous finale.
Towards sunset, the team practices against ‘Melon Lord’. Originally Toph was to be Melon Lord’s forces, but she got a little too into her role, but it’s the definition of ‘badass adorable’. However, Aang cannot bring himself to smash the melon. Sokka easily slices the melon with his head off-screen, Momo eagerly eating the fallen half.
Katara finds a scroll of a baby she thinks was little Zuko, but he reveals that was Ozai. Aang doesn’t want to kill Ozai; Zuko gets snarky. Sokka points out that he’s the Avatar so he can kill Ozai to restore the world’s balance.
Aang meditates that night, falling asleep soon enough. When he wakes up, there’s a ‘new’ island off-shore. He heads down to the shore and starts to swim towards it, Momo heading after him. Actually, I’m not sure if he is actually awake.
The next morning, the others try looking for Aang. They find his footprints at the beach- only one set, though. Sokka thinks he’s on a “Spirit World journey” until Zuko points out that would mean Aang’s body would still be here. When Katara suggests they split up to look for Aang, Toph promptly clings to Zuko, making the older boy blush. She points out, “What? Everybody else went on a life-changing field trip with Zuko. Now it’s my turn.”
Sokka flies around on Appa. Suki & Katara find actress-Aang and actor-Toph in town. On the shore, Toph tries to exposit on her backstory to Zuko, who finds it skewed priorities.
When they regroup at the abandoned summer home, the ‘Appa ate Momo’ sequence occurs, which to me is quite possibly the funniest bit in the entire series. There’s more funny background with Sokka as the others discuss how Zuko is the best person qualified to find Aang, given his past.
He then flies Appa towards the Earth Kingdom to Sokka’s confusion. Zuko has the reins while the others are back on the saddle.
Ozai and Azula take palanquins to the shore as Ozai will be soon leaving. She’s highly upset by his “change in plans” to have her stay behind as she thought it was going to be a father-daughter trip. The commentary discusses how “her whole framework of fear and domination and manipulation over people and their lives just started to crack” when Mai and Ty Lee turned on her.
Ozai makes himself “the Phoenix King” just moments after making Azula Fire Lord.
In an Earth Kingdom tavern, June is being a badass. Sokka recalls her; he and Zuko clarify on the shirshu and how it can find Aang. Toph, having ‘seen’ Jun casually fend off her foes, goes, “I don’t know who this June lady is, but I like her.”
The commentary notes that it was an idea to bring her back for the invasion as well as acknowledgement that sometimes Toph doesn’t know people from earlier episodes like Jeong-Jeong and June.
Aang wakes up on the island, which is now in the middle of the ocean.
It’s hard to believe that I have reached the finale… which, of course, has gotten to a superb start. The humor, action, characterization, and animation all shine here.
Both the commentary and the art book admit that this was originally a three-parter that had to be expanded in four parts- thus why this season has an ‘extra’ episode compared to the previous pair. Most of the first page is from later on, but Ozai’s Phoenix King garb and some phoenix-centric imagery is seen, as well as a design for a palanquin. The other pages are from the rest of the finale.
And yeah, more than ever I want to pretend that “The Dragon-King’s Temple” is canon, as it largely acts as Toph’s clearly coveted field trip with Zuko. I know it was just a lamp-shading, but I will concede that Toph got put to a back burner for this season, compared to the rest of the core Gaang.
Aang’s refusal to kill Ozai might not make sense at first, looking back at all the other battles he’s taken part in over time. However, those battles were primarily self-defense or protecting others. And it could be argued- like in “The Dragon-King’s Temple”- that Aang saw what setting out with the intent to kill did to Katara and wanted to avoid that personally. Because, yeah, a thirteen-year-old is being told to go battle somebody with the goal of killing at the core of this. No wonder Aang is pushing back. His friends have seen far more of what the Fire Nation’s attacks have done, and thus are more willing to do whatever it takes to stop them, especially Zuko.
Next time on Avatar: Aang speaks with the Lion Turtle while his friends find the White Lotus.