Avatar: TLA Re-Watch S1:E6 – “Imprisoned”

After last week’s silliness with King Bumi, this episode turns a bit serious again.

For starters, the episode begins with the kids literally scrounging for nuts (and rock-like nuts which may just be rocks) in the forest. After Kyoshi, they understand how it can be dangerous to stay in one place too long, but constant travel carries its own problems.

While the city of Omashu seemed far away from the war, in this episode we get a peek at what things look like under Fire Nation occupation. Though it’s an Earth Kingdom village,  the Fire Nation soldiers have been in charge for five years, forcing the villagers to work the local coal mines in order to feed the massive Fire Navy. All the Earth-benders (except for Haru), have been taken away to a place where they won’t be able to bend, but will still be able to work. The lazy corruption of the soldier asking for protection money is sickening. “You can keep the copper ones,” he says, dropping the coins on the floor.

It doesn’t speak well of the Fire Nation, of course, but the show never allows things to be quite that black-and-white. When Haru is arrested for bending, it is the Earth Kingdom miner that he saved who turned him in.

Katara, of course, feels responsible, so she is determined to rescue him. (They bonded! And she showed him her mother’s foreshadowing, er, I mean necklace!) And the only way to be sure that she would be taken to the same prison is to get arrested, not just for bending, but for earth bending! (After all, if they arrested her for water-bending, they probably would not send her to a floating mining rig. We get some nice humor with Katara and Sokka’s terrible acting during the plan, and it’s fun seeing how Katara’s bogus insults about Sokka’s ears seem to touch a nerve. Note also how the plan (blowing the rock using the ventilation shaft) sets up the eventual solution with the coal.

At the floating prison, we meet the warden, voiced by Sulu himself: George Takei. Despite his lovely voice, the warden himself is shown to be egotistical, vain, and borderline incompetent even from the start. He may be a big fish on the rig, but it’s kind of a crap job for any real Fire Navy officer. Still, he’s got his prisoners broken and he knows it. Katara is naive enough at first to believe a simple motivational speech will be enough to rally them, but she is mistaken. (Honestly, it would have been a bad move tactically as well. Until Aang provides the coal, they have no way to defend themselves against the fire-benders.) Note how unconcerned the warden is as she speaks.

Katara isn’t used to seeing people give up. After all, her mother was killed fighting the  fire nation, and her father, as well as the rest of her village’s warriors, are off fighting it now. She is determined not to abandon Haru and the earth-benders to their despair. When Sokka and Aang arrive on Appa, she refuses to leave, even against Sokka’s protests. They form a plan, but even once Aang provides the coal, the earth-benders are too afraid to fight. All but one, that is. Haru throws the coal at the warden, then his father saves him from the warden’s reprisal. Then it’s on.

The fire-benders aren’t used to this level of resistance, and they are quickly routed. You can see the joy the earth-benders have in using their skills again, especially in the service of fighting the enemy. (And I especially loved Aang’s air-coal tommy-gun!) The earth-benders seize the rig and the ships, and we last see them as they plan to take back their village. “And take back all our villages!” This victory, along with the Avatar’s return, has given them new hope.

We finish, however, with the reveal that Katara lost her mother’s necklace during the fighting, and that now Zuko has found it. I am shocked, SHOCKED, that the necklace turned out to be relevant! *Dramatic Music*

Additional Notes:

* Act Natural!

* “That lemur! It’s earth-bending”

* A nice little bit of bending rules: Earth-benders can’t bend metal, but can bend coal.

* “Well, was it a buffalo or a bison?” … “I’m not sure what the difference is, but that’s not really the point, is it, sir?”

One Comment

  • Shoulael says:

    I feel the portrayal of the prisoners on the rig is very realistic. They are content, if I may use the term, to let tomorrow follow today. Not everyone wants to be a hero.

    I can’t figure out why metal can’t be bent. Even when Toph bends metal, she’s actually bending the impurities IN the metal.

    The ‘Earth-bending Lemur’ was fun. But it raises a question: how does anyone know it’s a lemur, without being told? They died out with the Air-benders, after all.

    Finally, one unrealistic thing in the whole series is the lack of any honourable soldiers in the Fire Nation Military. They’re all dead, exiled or retired.