Avatar: TLA Re-Watch S1:E8 – Winter Solstice Part 2

Stakes: Raised.

With this episode, the series-level threat has finally been established. Sozin’s comet is coming at Summer’s End (a matter of months!), and when it does, Fire Lord Ozai will use its power to finish the war once and for all. It also helps explain how the war started in the first place. After all, a hundred years of consistent war seems like it would have been decided one way or the other by now. Instead, there was a devastating first attack leading to a lot of destruction and occupation, followed by lower level fighting over many years. It seems clear though, from Avatar Roku’s warning, that another dose of the comet might just get the job done.

We begin this episode with Aang making a noble, (but kinda lame), attempt to leave without Katara and Sokka, in the interest of keeping them safe. They are not convinced that this trip needs to be made anyway, given that they don’t have the benefit of Aang’s vision. If they can’t talk him out of it though, they’re determined to come along, and the race is on. Shortly after they leave the village, however, Zuko shows up and beats their destination out of the village elder. Chasing after Aang isn’t quite so simple for Zuko though, because, after all, he’s been banished! And Uncle Iroh warns that if they are captured in Fire Nation territory, there is nothing he’ll be able to do to protect him. Worse, the Fire Nation blockade is commanded by our old friend Captain Sideburns… er, I mean, Commander Zhao.

It’s the worst game of Red Rover ever, when Team Aang, (pursued by Zuko) have to run the blockade. Dodging giant fireballs is pretty harrowing. It did occur to me to wonder why they didn’t simply fly higher to avoid them, but then, they did try that at one point, and it wasn’t high enough, plus the clouds prevented them from seeing the projectiles coming. It also occurred to me that “FLYING BISON”, so I decided not to worry too much about it.

Zhao lets Zuko through the blockade with the intention of following him to the Avatar, and Zuko kind of implies that he has some secret plan which ultimately seems to amount to: “Lead Commander Zhao to the Avatar”. Later Zhao says “Your smokescreen didn’t work,” but it seems to me more like the smoke made them easier to follow. Whatever.

When Team Avatar arrives at the Fire Temple, it appears that the Fire Sages are now loyal to the Fire Lord. All but one, anyway, and he leads them to the sanctuary. It’s worth noting that the Sages lost their faith because the Avatar took so long to return. After a hundred years, it’s hard to really call them fickle. Just like the Air Temple had an air-bending lock, the Fire Temple has a fire-bending lock. Unfortunately, Aang’s not a fire-bender yet. Sokka has a pretty ingenious plan involving lamp-oil explosives, but alas, it doesn’t work. (Does this suggest that there is something more to fire-bending than simple flames?) Regardless, Katara’s follow-up plan to PRETEND it worked is inspired.

Zuko shows up out of nowhere and almost spoils the party, but Aang is able to break free and enter the sanctuary, but not without risk. After all, Katara and Sokka are still held prisoner outside! Then Zhao shows up to take EVERYBODY prisoner. Meanwhile, Aang is communing with Avatar Roku, and learning the deal about the comet. He states that it usually takes YEARS to master each element, but Aang needs to do it in about three months. Still, despite the incredible odds, Roku expresses optimism. “After all,” he says, “You’ve done it before.”

Then Roku helps Aang Avatar-out with some mad fire-bending skillz, yo, and brings down the whole Fire Temple. Zuko manages to escape from Zhao back to his own ship, and the kids leap on to Appa. The Fire Sages aren’t so lucky though, because if Zhao can’t have the prisoners he wanted, he’ll take what he can get.

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